Cognitive schemas can result in stereotypes and contribute to prejudice.


Stereotypes are beliefs about people based on their membership in a particular group. Stereotypes can be positive, negative, or neutral. Stereotypes based on gender, ethnicity, or occupation are common in many societies.

Examples: People may stereotype women as nurturing or used car salespeople as dishonest.

The Stability of Stereotypes

Stereotypes are not easily changed, for the following reasons:

  • When people encounter instances that disconfirm their stereotypes of a particular group, they tend to assume that those instances are atypical subtypes of the group.

Example: Ben stereotypes gay men as being unathletic. When he meets Al, an athletic gay man, he assumes that Al is not a typical representative of gay people.

  • People’s perceptions are influenced by their expectations.

Example: Liz has a stereotype of elderly people as mentally unstable. When she sees an elderly woman sitting on a park bench alone, talking out loud, she thinks that the woman is talking to herself because she is unstable. Liz fails to notice that the woman is actually talking on a cell phone.

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