How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
Conforming to stereotype
I was just listening to a radio program about racial stereotyping and conformance to stereotype. One piece of research, for example, showed that black students at university tended to perform below their predicted grades. The key reason, it seems, is that they feel obliged in some way to conform to the stereotypes that are put upon them.
A series of experiments showed the remarkable sensitivity of black people to the stereotype of them being somehow less intelligent than white people.
When an intelligence test was given to a random sample of both black and white students, the black students scored on average lower than the white students. Conclusive evidence, you might say, that black people are less intelligent, thus proving an aspect of the stereotype. What is quite shocking, however, was what happened when exactly the same test was given to another sample, with the simple change that instead of being called an 'intelligence test', it was described as an 'investigation into how people solve problems'. That is, the people taking the test did not feel like they were being tested for intelligence, and rather felt that they were helping some researchers understand how people think in general. The result of this was that both black and white people scored exactly the same. In other words, all it took was for the black students to believe they are being assessed for intelligence for them to subconsciously conform to stereotype.
The sensitivity to stereotype was further illustrated when the second test was preceded by some questions about demographics. When those questions included a simple question about ethnicity, then the scores of the black students in the subsequent test went down again. In other words, all it took was a reminder that they were black for them to start to 'think themselves stupid'.
What this shows is not just that black students are sensitive to stereotypes and will fall into the 'required behavior' at the slightest nudge, but that this is very likely true for almost anyone who fits into a stereotyped group, whether it is based on skin color, nationality, religion, age, gender or even where you live. Pretty much everyone fits into several stereotyped classifications. I am white, male, protestant. No stereotypes? Well, yes, those three have behaviors to which others will expect me to conform. And I'm Welsh, over fifty, a public servant, etc...
For changing minds, the research described above has the pernicious implication that people will very easily conform to stereotypes, particularly when you remind them of this. For those of us who fall into one of the many groups who are stereotyped in some way (which pretty much means all of us), then this is a stern warning to monitor our own thoughts and behaviors, particularly when being observed by others -- and not only outside the stereotype group -- the research also showed that there is strong pressure even when with others of the same stereotype group to conform to the defined pattern.
Black people are less intelligent than white people. Intelligence tests
aren't the only studies that have been used to conclusively prove this. Blacks
have a lower brain mass which is in proportion to their performance on
standardized tests. Blacks are 14% of the population but account for over 80% of
I'm sorry David B, but I think your are wrong and to make accusations like that just shows the poor level of understanding you actually have.
I also don't think that it really has to be proved that anyone with any type
of skin tone is thicker than anyone else. We are all people and all live in this
world together. It really should not be an issue of proving anything -- it is
just causing friction between everyone.
-- Maria P.
Bush is forever saying that democracies do not invade other countries and
start wars. Well, he did just that. He invaded Iraq, started a war, and killed
people. What do you think? Why has Bush turned our country from a country of
hope and prosperity to a country of belligerence and fear.
david b im sorry 2 say i believe you are wrong about the statement you
have made it it just shows us your out look on life and also your ignorance.
there are many intelligent black people in this world statistics shouldn't be
based on a persons skin color but on how a person apply's them self .i feel that
people shouldn't have worry about what others think about them because of their
David B...there are ample amounts of intelligent Blacks in the world. As a Black male who was accepted into many esteemed universities, i happen to know quite a few of these men. If you check the records (not your American "Mr. Whitey does no wrong" history books) Blacks not only built this land you call America but also over 50% of the machines and other contraptions which make this clock tick. and as to why Blacks occupy 80% of the jails but only populate 15% of the U.S...there are many theories that I am sure you have no idea about and cannot explain, neither can your government. (lets not forget the innocent Panthers who are still imprisoned) as an 18 year old Black college student, i must say that i am offended.
-- intelligent Black man
David B's reply is a perfect example of the stereotyping this blog entry is
attesting to. It also has to do with the power of suggestion. Somewhere in David
B's life he was likely taught (inadvertently stereotyped) to believe these
impressions he now holds as his own. He was likely surrounded by individuals who
taught him to believe that these things were so, and so the tapes keep playing.
This David B feels obliged, as you say, to conform to the stereotype he was
likely raised in. What I have found to be so, though, is that the larger you
purposely make your world, by exposure, the more these stereotypes fall away.
The more present we are with individuals, the more apt we are to see the
individual, and not the group image we have been taught to see by society at
large. The more we educate ourselves, out of our genuine desire to inhabit our
own truth, and the more purposely observant we are, the more personal truth we
Intelligent is not base on skin tone. Most people have to work dam hard and so a few people just give up. Plus do you know know if the test was fair, was the people from the same background? did they have a similar education? Where the black people chosen from a working class background with a low income and poor education and the white people from a high class background with a very good income so that they could afford to go to private school and get the best education?
I'm a white girl from a working class background, no money and i did go to schools with low teaching levels, which was mainly a white student body and only white teachers, and i have learning difficulties anyway, but that does not stop me being in college, right? A lot of my class mate who did not work hard at school are paying for it now, lots of white students are now with jobs and look like they will be staying in the working class level, but one black boy is doing his A levels and choosing which uni he want to go to. Intelligent is NOT base on skin tone, class, wealth, religion or even on the education level, but it is base on HARD WORK of the person, though money and a good education would help.
-- J. S
I am curious to the validity of these intelligence tests when they are
given to those of different races and ethnicities. From what I have learned,
most of these tests are created by white men and are not culturally sensitive
and are aimed at the white man population. I could be wrong, maybe new ones have
been developed that are culturally diverse. Either way, each race has its own
culture and it makes sense to me that they would score higher when they were
told something different than it being an intelligent test.
Iin my studies of whites verses black behavior whites are acting out behavior
from the past and don't realize it and blacks are accepting it because it
because it common blacks fills that they have to prove that they can adapt to
the white part of society white police treat blacks the way they do because it
is a common practice of past behavior and black police follow because it is
common in today society until white people and black people realize that their
behavior is off track and began to change it the stereotypes behaviours will
produce hate division and most of all fear and denial of the truth which our
behavior and we are being pressured to change how we treat each other
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And the big