Nations' income inequality predicts ambivalence in stereotype content: how societies mind the gap

Br J Soc Psychol. 2013 Dec;52(4):726-46. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12005. Epub 2012 Oct 5.


Income inequality undermines societies: The more inequality, the more health problems, social tensions, and the lower social mobility, trust, life expectancy. Given people's tendency to legitimate existing social arrangements, the stereotype content model (SCM) argues that ambivalence-perceiving many groups as either warm or competent, but not both-may help maintain socio-economic disparities. The association between stereotype ambivalence and income inequality in 37 cross-national samples from Europe, the Americas, Oceania, Asia, and Africa investigates how groups' overall warmth-competence, status-competence, and competition-warmth correlations vary across societies, and whether these variations associate with income inequality (Gini index). More unequal societies report more ambivalent stereotypes, whereas more equal ones dislike competitive groups and do not necessarily respect them as competent. Unequal societies may need ambivalence for system stability: Income inequality compensates groups with partially positive social images.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa
  • Americas
  • Asia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Male
  • Oceania
  • Social Environment
  • Social Identification*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stereotyping*
  • Young Adult