Perceived Consensus as a Foundation of Racial Stereotyping

By Charles StangorGretchen B. SechristJohn T. Jost
1998| Working Paper No. 1517

In four experiments, it was demonstrated that the expression of racial stereotyping and prejudice is highly affected by perceptions about the extent to which stereotypic beliefs are consensually shared by members of relevant reference groups. Providing feedback that others held more favorable beliefs toward African-Americans than individual originally estimated increased the expression of positive and reduced the expression of negative stereotypes, whereas providing information that others held less favorable beliefs than originally estimated increased the expression of negative and reduced the expression of positive stereotypes. The observed stereotype change was large in magnitude, and it was found to hold up over a period of one week. Consensus effects were stronger among people who were low rather than high in initial confidence about their stereotypic beliefs and among people who were exposed to information about the opinions of ingroup rather that outgroup members. Finally, providing information that others agreed with the individual’s own stereotypes made the stereotypes more resistant to subsequent attempts to change them.