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Lazy Dumb or Industrious When Stereotypes

Lazy Dumb or Industrious When Stereotypes

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Published by Alice Mia Merdy
Stereotype from male perspective.
Stereotype from male perspective.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Alice Mia Merdy on Jul 10, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Educational Psychology Re
iew, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2000
Lazy, Dumb, or Industrious: When StereotypesConvey Attribution Information in the Classroom
Christine Reyna
edinAmeri-can schools. This paper examines the role that stereotypes play in imposingobstacles to success for stigmatized children inside and outside of the class-room. Stereotypes con
ey explanatory information about groups—such asblacks are lazy, girls are bad at math, and so forth—that may be used asattributions for performance by adults as well as the children themsel 
es.This paper presents a model that brings to light the underlying attributional  structuresofallstereotypes.Eachoftheseattributionalsignatureshasspecificeffects on judgments of responsibility and deser 
ingness, help gi
ing or pun-ishment,self-esteemandmoti
enperformanceinsideandoutsideof the classroom. Through recognizing that stereotypes are
ehicles for attri-butional judgments, educators are better able to anticipate the effects that  stereotypes may ha
e on students and take measures to counteract or dimin-ish them.
stereotypes; attributions; causal judgments; discrimination; stigmatizedstudents; attributions and achievement.
Despite decades of reform efforts, academic underachievement in mi-nority groups remains a challenge for American public schools and universi-ties. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to have lower GPAs,receive lower scores on standardized tests, and are more likely to drop out
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.
Correspondence should be directed to Christine Reyna, Department of Psychology, UCLA,1282A Franz Hall, Box 951563, Los Angeles, California 90095-1563; e-mail: creyna@ucla.edu
2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation
86 Reyna
of college or to never bother attending college compared to Caucasianstudents (Kuykendall, 1996). Similarly, despite evidence that women per-form well in math courses and on mathematical tests, and in some instances,outperform men (Bridgeman and Wendler, 1991; Lummis and Stevenson,1990; Yee and Eccles, 1988), women are two-and-a-half times more likelyto drop out of quantitative areas such as math, engineering, and the physicalsciences (Hewitt and Seymour, 1991).Numerous factors combine to produce these achievement discrepanc-ies, such as language barriers and low socioeconomic status among minoritygroups. One contributing factor that cannot be overlooked is the effectthat subtle expectations and beliefs about groups can have on the wayminority students are treated in the classroom. For example, teachers expectlower achievement from African-American youths than from Caucasians(Richman
et al.,
1997; Williams and Muehl, 1978). Rubovits and Maehr(1973) have found that, in the classroom, African American students aregiven less attention and are ignored more than theirCaucasian counterparts,regardless of the former’s academic performance or gifted status. AfricanAmerican students also receive more negative feedback and mixed mes-sages (Irvine, 1985). In the classroom, women also receive less total commu-nication, praise, and feedback than do men (Irvine, 1985), especially inclasses that are traditionally masculine, such as math and science courses(Deaux and Emswiller, 1974). Teacher expectations not only affect the wayteachers treat students, but also strongly affect the academic self-image aswell as the scholastic performance of students (Denbo, 1986).Many of these widely held expectations toward students emanate fromstereotypes about certain groups (Hamilton,
1990). Stereotypes repre-sent a host of prepackaged expectations that have very real consequencesfor the beliefs and behaviors of both the user of stereotypes and for thosebeing stereotyped. To understand the consequences that stereotypes mayhave in achievement settings, it is important to first examine the informationthat stereotypes convey and the ramifications of this information. Thispaper proposes that stereotypes provide a vehicle for making attributionsabout behaviors and performance; by viewing stereotypes through an attri-butional lens, one is able to better understand and perhaps predict theconsequences of these beliefs.
Stereotypes serve multiple functions (for reviews, see Ashmore andDelboca, 1981; Fiske, 1998; Hamilton and Sherman, 1994). At one level,stereotypes are
that is, stereotypes represent a coherent picture
Lazy, Dumb, or Industrious Reyna 87
of what a social category or group is like (Hamilton, 1980; Ashmore andDelboca, 1981). However, stereotypes also serve an
function(Allport, 1954). Along with information about
a group is and does,stereotypes also provide information about
group members are theway they are or why they are in their present state.One kind of explanation stereotypes provide concerns the cause of aparticularstate of affairsregarding a group.Forexample,the stereotype that‘‘Blacksare lazy’isnot justa putative description ofAfrican Americans,butit is an explanation of why African Americans are not successful in oursociety. ‘‘Women are not good at math’’ is a stereotype often invoked toexplain why women are less likely than men to pursue math-oriented ca-reers. ‘‘Japanese are hard-working’’ is one interpretation for Japan’s eco-nomic success. Even a popular movie—
White Men Can’t Jump
—has as atitle a stereotype that is used to justify beliefs that Caucasians are not goodbasketball players. Stereotypes also provide ready-made explanations forindividual acts performed by stereotyped group members. The same stereo-types listed above could also be used to rationalize an African Americanwho loses his job, a girl who fails on a math test, a Japanese studentwho gets into a good college, or a Caucasian youth who does poorly in asporting event.The causal interpretations and explanations that are communicatedthrough stereotypes can guide the way group members are treated. Forexample, many stereotypes—such as those of African Americans, Hispan-ics, and women—include negative attributes such as low intellectual ability.Low ability attributions have been linked with low expectancies for futuresuccess, which in turn may limit the opportunities that are offered to mem-bers of those groups because they are not deemed capable (Weiner, 1986).Stereotypes that sorority girls are promiscuous may undermine a sororitymember’s credibility as a victim of date rape because these stereotypesmay make a jury more susceptible to accusations that she ‘‘led the boy on’’or was ‘‘a willing participant’’ in the sexual encounter. Thus, assessingguilt or innocence, worthiness or unworthiness, capability or ineptitude, ordeciding to help or to punish are decisions informed, and even justified,by the causal attributions conveyed in stereotypes.In summary, certain stereotypes have the consequences they do be-cause they convey attributional information that impacts the way stereo-typed individuals are treated by others as well as the way those beingstereotyped perceive themselves. This paper provides an analysis of stereo-types as attributional agents and presents a model that explains how thestereotype–attribution link affects (1) the self-esteem and motivation of the stereotyped, (2) people’s attitudes and behaviors toward stereotypedgroup members, and (3) how both play out in achievement settings. Finally,

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