Media Releases

Stereotyping has a lasting negative impact

April 10, 2010

TORONTO, ON – Aggres­sion. Over-eat­ing. Inabil­i­ty to focus. Dif­fi­cul­ty mak­ing ratio­nal deci­sions. New research out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough shows prej­u­dice has a last­ing neg­a­tive impact on those who expe­ri­ence it.

“Past stud­ies have shown that peo­ple per­form poor­ly in sit­u­a­tions where they feel they are being stereo­typed,” says Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy Michael Inzlicht, who led the study, pub­lished in this month’s edi­tion of the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­i­ty and Social Psy­chol­o­gy. “What we want­ed to do was look at what hap­pens after­wards. Are there lin­ger­ing effects of prej­u­dice? Does being stereo­typed have an impact beyond the moment when stereo­typ­ing hap­pens?”

In order to deter­mine whether neg­a­tive stereo­typ­ing in a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion had last­ing effects, Inzlicht’s team per­formed a series of tests. First, they placed par­tic­i­pants in sit­u­a­tions where they had to per­form a task in the face of neg­a­tive stereo­typ­ing. After the par­tic­i­pants were removed from the prej­u­di­cial sit­u­a­tion, researchers mea­sured their abil­i­ty to con­trol their aggres­sion, eat appro­pri­ate amounts, make ratio­nal deci­sions, and stay focused.

Their results show that prej­u­dice and stereo­typ­ing have lin­ger­ing adverse impacts.

“Even after a per­son leaves a sit­u­a­tion where they faced neg­a­tive stereo­types, the effects of cop­ing with that sit­u­a­tion remain,” says Inzlicht. “Peo­ple are more like­ly to be aggres­sive after they’ve faced prej­u­dice in a giv­en sit­u­a­tion. They are more like­ly to exhib­it a lack of self con­trol. They have trou­ble mak­ing good, ratio­nal deci­sions. And they are more like­ly to over-indulge on unhealthy foods.”

In one por­tion of the study, researchers had a group of women write a math test. They told the women this test would deter­mine whether or not they were capa­ble and smart in math, sub­tly inject­ing stereo­types about women and math skills “into the air,” says Inzlicht. A sep­a­rate group of women wrote the same test, except this group was giv­en sup­port and cop­ing strate­gies to deal with the stress they’d face when writ­ing the test.

After com­plet­ing the math test, the two groups per­formed anoth­er series of tasks designed to gauge their aggres­sion lev­els, their abil­i­ty to focus and to exer­cise self con­trol.

“In these fol­low-up tests, the women who felt dis­crim­i­nat­ed against ate more than their peers in the con­trol group. They showed more hos­til­i­ty than the con­trol group. And they per­formed more poor­ly on tests that mea­sured their cog­ni­tive skills,” says Inzlicht.

The pat­tern remained the same, regard­less of the test groups. Peo­ple who felt they were dis­crim­i­nat­ed against – whether based on gen­der, age, race or reli­gion – all expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant impacts even after they were removed from the sit­u­a­tion, says Inzlicht.

“These lin­ger­ing effects hurt peo­ple in a very real way, leav­ing them at a dis­ad­van­tage,” says Inzlicht. “Even many steps removed from a prej­u­di­cial sit­u­a­tion, peo­ple are car­ry­ing around this bag­gage that neg­a­tive­ly impacts their lives.”


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Michael Inzlicht
Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor, Psy­chol­o­gy
Cell: 416–820-2395

April Kemick
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer
Office: 416–978-5949