Category representations and stereotype change

I examine mental representations of broad social categories. Using reverse correlation to estimate participants’ visual mental representations, we developed a novel method for distinguishing subgroups and subtypes of Black and White men (Hinzman & Maddox, 2017). I examined how subtypes and subgroups are organized based on typicality. For instance, subgroups—typical members of a category—largely possess features that confirm elements of the category stereotype. On the other hand, subtypes—atypical members of a category—largely possess features that disconfirm elements of the category stereotype.

These representations may have important consequences for the persistence of group-level stereotypes among perceivers. Stereotypes are notoriously resistant to change. However, previous work demonstrates that typical members of a social category who exhibit stereotype-disconfirming behavior are more likely to change stereotypes of that group (Rothbart & Lewis, 1988). This work has rarely been applied to influence representations of real groups. Guided by the techniques I developed to identify meaningful subcategories of Blacks, I examine how we might leverage these distinctions to effect global stereotype change.