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Stereotyping & Prejudice

Stereotypes are consensual, generic beliefs that overemphasize differences between social groups and downplay variations within them. In the case of gender, stereotypes are both descriptive (i.e., beliefs about what women and men are typically like) and prescriptive (i.e., beliefs about what women and men should and should not be like). Both descriptive and prescriptive stereotypes play an important role in people’s choices, encouraging them to self-select into gender-stereotypic roles. These stereotypes can

also feed into prejudicial views about the appropriate roles of men and women, and represent barriers that block individuals’ entry into counter-stereotypic roles. At SRBL, we investigate gender stereotyping and prejudice with the goal of understanding the cultural transmission of these beliefs (e.g., through media and socialization), how they influence individuals’ self-views and choices, how they shape the way that people evaluate and treat others, and how they can be effectively challenged.

For example, in one ongoing project, we leverage cutting-edge technologies to immerse people in a short virtual reality experience with the goal of changing their stereotypic views associating science with men rather than women (Vial & Banakou, 2023). Virtual reality is a powerful tool for shaping self-views, cognitions, and attitudes. In our current research, we investigate whether embodying a famous female scientist in a short virtual reality experience can reduce people’s implicit stereotypes that science is for men (more than for women). Gender stereotypes that equate science (and intellectual brilliance) with men are widely endorsed and hard to change, and they underlie bias against women in science as well as women’s self-selection out of science fields. Given that virtual reality has been shown to successfully change people’s implicit biases in other domains (e.g., age bias), it is possible that it may work to reduce gender stereotyping as well. Another goal of our investigation is to examine whether briefly embodying the virtual body of a famous female scientist can increase women’s sense of belonging and self-efficacy in science domains and their interest in science. This research has important practical implications for the development of interventions seeking to increase women’s participation in science and to reduce negative attitudes toward them.

Vial, A. C. & Banakou, D. (2023). Being a (female) scientist: Gender congruency and embodiment effects in virtual reality. Manuscript in preparation.

Further research on stereotyping and prejudice:

Spielmann, J. & Vial, A. C. (2023). Understanding attitudes toward transgender and non-binary identities. Manuscript in preparation.

Vial, A. C., Spielmann, J., & Cimpian, A. (2023). Women in STEM in the Arab World: A systematic reviewManuscript in preparation.

Vial, A. C., Davani, A. M., Havaldar, S., Chestnut, E., Dehghani, M., & Cimpian, A. Syntactic and semantic gender biases in the language on children’s television: Evidence from 98 shows from 1960 to 2018Manuscript in preparation.

Vial, A. C., & Cimpian, A. (2020). Evaluative feedback expresses and reinforces cultural stereotypes. In E. Brummelman (Ed.), Psychological Perspectives on Praise. New York: Routledge. PDF.

Kahalon, R., Bareket, O., Vial, A. C., Sassenhagen, N., Becker, J. C., & Shnabel, N. (2019). The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy predicts patriarchy endorsement: Evidence from Israel, Germany, and the United States. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 43(3), 348-367. PDF.

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