To investigate the role of competence and morality in stereotypes, a cross-national research was set up in six eastern-European countries. Study 1 measured the perceived desirability of stereotype attributes in ingroup versus outgroup members. Across countries, biopolar Competence and Morality components emerged. It was found that the perceived desirability of ingroup attributes was primarily competence-based, while desirability perceptions of outgroup attributes were mostly morality-based. In Study 2, participants in the six countries rated the occurrence of competence- and morality-related stereotype attributes among 10 national and ethnic target groups. Study 2 also assessed general evaluative attitudes and perceptions of power and conflict in inter-nation relations. Competence and morality dimensions fully explained the evaluative structure of national and ethnic stereotypes, generating a four-fold typology of sinful–loser, sinful–winner, virtuous–loser and virtuous–winner stereotypes. This typology was strongly related to perceptions of power and conflict between national groups. © 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.