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Abstract

This paper examines the hypothesis that patterns of stereotypic accentuation reflect the degree to which judged stimuli share the same social category membership as the stereotyper, Following self-categorization theory, the degree of this shared identity is operationalized in terms of the meta-contrast ratio as a function of the positions of (a) stereotyper and (b) stereotyped target relative to (c) the stereotyper's frame of reference. Three experiments are reported which sought to manipulate shared category membership either by extension of subjects' frame of reference or by extremitization of target and subject with respect to that frame. As predicted, greater shared identity was associated with stronger assimilation of the target to subjects' own position and with change in stereotype content. Findings are discussed in relation to theories of personality, social judgement and social cognition. Like the accentuation processes which underpin them, it is proposed that stereotypes are sensitive to comparative context and that they reflect veridically the social self-categorical properties of stimuli.