In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Stereotypes

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Illusory Correlations
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
  • Stereotype Threat
  • Perceptions of Group Variability
  • Perceived Entitativity
  • Social Categorization
  • Change and Context Effects
  • Prescriptive Stereotypes
  • Memory
  • The Law
  • Social Neuroscience
  • Relations between Stereotypes and Prejudice

Psychology Stereotypes
Akeela Careem, Lee Jussim, Rachel Rubinstein
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0086


Stereotypes represent a broad and general topic in psychology and other social sciences. The bulk of the theorizing and empirical data on stereotypes, however, comes from social psychology. As this annotated bibliography will show, there is widespread disagreement in emphasis, tone, and even data regarding the extent to which stereotypes are inaccurate, irrational, and a source or result of prejudice and discrimination. Stereotypes (the contents of people’s beliefs about groups) and stereotyping (the processes by which people—consciously or not—use their stereotypes to make sense of the world) have been studied by social psychologists for almost a century, and they remain hot topics. Although laypeople often seem to use the terms “stereotype,” “prejudice,” and “discrimination” nearly synonymously, social psychologists draw significant distinctions between each concept. Stereotypes are usually defined as beliefs about groups, prejudice as evaluation of or attitude toward a group, and discrimination as behavior that systematically advantages or disadvantages a group. This article focuses on stereotypes.

General Overviews

The works in this section provide overviews and introductions to social scientific conceptualizations of stereotypes. The concept was first developed by Walter Lippmann in his book on public opinion, Lippmann 1922, which is worth reading even though it lacks scientific data because one can readily see the roots of much modern-day thinking in Lippmann’s ideas. The single most influential broad overview of stereotypes, however, is provided by Allport 1979 (originally published in 1954). Although the title emphasizes prejudice, much of the book focuses on stereotypes, and it constitutes the foundation and starting point for nearly all modern research on stereotypes, especially from the social cognitive perspective. Ashmore and Del Boca 1981, Brigham 1971, and Hilton and von Hippel 1996 are all excellent article-length summaries of what was known about stereotypes up to their respective dates. Nelson 2009 is an edited volume that contains a collection of papers reviewing broad swaths of the scientific stereotype literature. Oakes, et al. 1994 is a broad and deep analysis of stereotypes from the perspectives of social identity and self-categorization theories—perspectives that have been more influential outside the United States (which has been dominated by the social cognition perspective). Schneider 2004 is perhaps the best single source yet written on stereotypes—it aspires to integrate broad and sometimes conflicting perspectives and data into a coherent perspective regarding what stereotypes are, how they function, and how they relate to prejudice and discrimination.

  • Allport, G. W. 1979. The nature of prejudice. 2d ed. New York: Basic Books.

    Originally published in 1954. As part of this early classic, Allport extensively discusses stereotypes and how they relate to reality, prejudice, discrimination, politics, personality, and identity.

  • Ashmore, R. D., and F. K. Del Boca. 1981. Conceptual approaches to stereotypes and stereotyping. In Cognitive processes in stereotyping and intergroup behavior. Edited by D. L. Hamilton, 1–35. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Reviews theoretical approaches to stereotypes. Defines stereotypes as beliefs about the characteristics of social groups. This flexible definition is neutral in regard to the (ir)rationality, (in)accuracy, negativity, and rigidity of stereotypes; whether they are widely shared, conscious, or rigid; and whether they cause prejudice, biases, and discrimination. A good source for a politically and theoretically neutral conceptualization of stereotypes.

  • Brigham, J. C. 1971. Ethnic stereotypes. Psychological Bulletin 76.1: 15–38.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0031446

    Useful review of much of the early literature on ethnic stereotypes. Raises questions about defining stereotypes, their content and development, their relationship to prejudice, and methods used to study them. Because laypeople and scientists alike use the term “stereotype” as an indictment of the invalidity of other people’s (not one’s own) beliefs about groups, Brigham defines ethnic stereotypes as “beliefs about an ethnic group considered unjustified by an observer” (p. 29).

  • Hilton, J. L., and W. von Hippel. 1996. Stereotypes. Annual Review of Psychology 47:237–271.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.47.1.237

    Broad review of stereotype literature mostly from the 1980s and 1990s. Emphasizes models of stereotype representation; processes that cause stereotypes to form, including self-fulfilling prophecies, nonconscious detection covariation, illusory correlation, and out-group homogeneity; processes that maintain stereotypes, including priming, assimilation, attribution, and memory; applications of stereotypes; and stereotype change.

  • Lippmann, W. 1922. Public opinion. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

    Although this book was written by a journalist about public opinion many years ago, it contains the earliest and one of the most influential psychological definitions of stereotypes—as “pictures in the head” (p. 16) about various groups. Constitutes a main root of perspectives emphasizing inaccuracy, relationship to prejudice, stereotypes as oversimplifications (cognitive miser view), and stereotypes as justifications for inequality.

  • Nelson, T. D., ed. 2009. Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York: Psychology Press.

    This edited volume includes entries reviewing research on a broad array of stereotype topics, including history, power, automaticity and control, stereotype threat, accuracy, entitavity, shifting standards, and social neuroscience.

  • Oakes, P. J., S. A. Haslam, and J. C. Turner. 1994. Stereotyping and social reality. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Presents a broad and sweeping review of what is known about stereotypes. This includes a vigorous critique of the dominant social cognition perspective, especially its emphasis on error and bias. Includes a review and critique of the social identity theory approach to stereotypes and the presentation of (what was then) a new approach that built on social identity theory: self-categorization theory.

  • Schneider, D. J. 2004. The psychology of stereotyping. New York: Guilford.

    The most comprehensive and balanced treatise on the psychological research on and related to stereotyping yet written.

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