Sidanians Try to Share Their Values with Others: Threat or Opportunity? It Depends on Your Own Vulnerabilities

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In an affordance management approach, stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination are conceptualized as tools to manage the potential opportunities and threats afforded by others in highly interdependent social living. This approach

In an affordance management approach, stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination are conceptualized as tools to manage the potential opportunities and threats afforded by others in highly interdependent social living. This approach suggests a distinction between two “kinds” of stereotypes. “Base” stereotypes are relatively factual, stable beliefs about the capacities and inclinations of groups and their members, whereas “affordance stereotypes” are beliefs about potential threats and opportunities posed by groups and their members. Two experiments test the hypothesized implications of this distinction: (1) People may hold identical base stereotypes about a target group but hold very different affordance stereotypes. (2) Affordance stereotypes, but not base stereotypes, are shaped by perceiver goals and felt vulnerabilities. (3) Prejudices and (4) discrimination are more heavily influenced by affordance stereotypes than by base stereotypes. I endeavored to manipulate participants’ felt vulnerabilities to measure the predicted corresponding shifts in affordance (but not base) stereotype endorsement, prejudices, and discriminatory inclinations toward a novel target group (Sidanians). In Study 1 (N = 600), the manipulation was unsuccessful. In Study 2 (N = 338), the manipulation had a partial effect, allowing for preliminary causal tests of the proposed model. In both studies, I predicted and found high endorsement of the base stereotypes that Sidanians try to share their values and actively participate in the community, with low variability. I also predicted and found more variation in affordance (vs. base) stereotype endorsement, which was systematically related to participants’ felt vulnerabilities in Study 2. Taken together, these findings support my hypothesized distinction between base stereotypes and affordance stereotypes. Finally, I modeled the proposed correlational relationships between felt vulnerabilities, base stereotypes, affordance stereotypes, prejudices, and discriminatory inclinations in the model. Although these relationships were predominantly significant in the predicted directions, overall fit of the model was poor. These studies further our critical understanding of the relationship between stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination. This has implications for how we devise interventions to reduce the deleterious effects of such processes on their targets, perhaps focusing on changing perceiver vulnerabilities and perceived affordance (rather than base) stereotypes to more effectively reduce prejudices and discrimination.