The role of imagination stereotype maintenance
Slusher, Morgan Paul
Anderson, Craig A.
Master of Arts
The present studies examine how failures in reality monitoring contribute to stereotype maintenance. In one study, subjects imagined members of occupational groups within specific contexts that could be relevant to a trait stereotypic of that group. Subjects tended to incorporate the stereotyped trait into the imagination. In another experiment, subjects read sentences that matched traits (stereotyped and nonstereotyped) with occupations with equal frequency. Subjects also imagined members of each occupation in situations relevant to particular stereotypic traits. In subsequent judgments of presentation frequency, subjects overestimated stereotypic occupation-trait combinations, replicating earlier studies. More importantly, subjects further overestimated the presentation frequency of imagined stereotypic combinations, indicating failure of subjects to distinguish between their imaginations and actual presentations. Thus, stereotype-based imaginings led to inflated association of groups with their stereotypic traits. The possible role this "imaginal confirmation" process may play in the maintenance of stereotypes is also discussed.