Social Perception and
Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
Lee Jussim, Rutgers University.
Published by Oxford University Press.
Chapter 17. Pervasive
This chapter reviews every high quality study of stereotype accuracy
that I could find. It presents the evidence with respect to
personal and consensual accuracy, using both correlations and
discrepancy scores (see Chapter 16 for an explanation of what these
are). It includes sections reviewing the empirical research on
racial, gender, and other stereotypes. When the original studies
addressed conditions under which accuracy was higher or lower, that,
too, is included here. Furthermore, each study is critically
evaluated, highlighting both its strengths and its limitations.
Overall, this review indicates that the high quality, scientific
research consistently shows that stereotype accuracy is one of the
largest effects in all of social psychology.
WARNING: TURN BACK NOW, BEFORE
IT IS TOO LATE
This chapter contains contents that may be deeply
upsetting to anyone committed to the view of stereotypes as inherently
or generally inaccurate and irrational. If you have read this
book continuously, you undoubtedly do not need these warnings and know
what to expect. However, these warnings are necessary for anyone
reading this chapter without reading the rest of the book. .
Warning I: DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER without having
first read Chapters 10-12, 15 and 16. You will need those
chapters to understand what I mean by accuracy generally, and when I
describe the results of the studies reviewed below as showing that
people’s beliefs were “accurate,” “near misses” or “inaccurate” in this
Warning II: DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER, unless you are
willing to consider the possibility that stereotypes are often
accurate. DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER, if you think that merely
considering the possibility that many of people’s beliefs about groups
(stereotypes) have a great deal of accuracy makes someone a racist,
sexist, etc. DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER if you believe that
stereotypes are inherently inaccurate, flawed, irrational, rigid, etc.,
and this belief cannot be or should not be revised if empirical
scientific data fail to fully support it.
What About Person Perception?
OK, so the scientific evidence does not justify
concluding that stereotypes are pervasively inaccurate; instead,
stereotype accuracy is one of the largest effects in all of social
psychology. Before discussing the implications of these results,
it is necessary to address one more “Yes, but…”. Specifically,
“Yes, but what is really important about stereotypes is how they lead
to biased judgments regarding individuals.”
This type of “Yes, but…” argument is fairly common
in modern perspectives on stereotypes (e.g., Fiske, 2004; Nelson, 2002;
Schneider, 2004; Stangor, 1995), and, in essence, engages in a major
tactical retreat from perspectives that have emphasized stereotype
inaccuracy in the past. It grudgingly acknowledges that,
stereotypes are, in some sense, somewhat accurate for overall
perceptions of groups, but goes on to imply that this is not very
important. Instead, according to this tactical retreat, what is
important is how people perceive and behave towards individual members
of different groups.
I doubt that most proponents of this view would
characterize it as any sort of “retreat,” let alone a “tactical”
one. Nonetheless, I do so characterize it. That is because
this view at least acknowledges that stereotypes as perceptions of
groups may indeed sometimes be pretty accurate. As such, it
constitutes a serious retreat from the overwhelming emphasis on
inaccuracy that has characterized most of the social science discourse
At the same time, however, this “yes, but…” can be
viewed as “tactical” because it denigrates the importance of finding
evidence of stereotype accuracy. As such, it allows the
proponents of this view to maintain intact a view of stereotypes as
“generalizations gone rotten” (Schneider, 2004) – not because they are
inaccurate per se, but because of the allegedly awful and inappropriate
ways people apply them when perceiving and judging individuals.
“Yes stereotypes may not always be inaccurate, but let’s get back to
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Jussim, L. (2012). Social Perception and
Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. New
York: Oxford University Press.
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