Effects of Stereotypes on Decision Making and Information-Processing Strategies

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1985 Feb;48(2):267-82.


In two experiments we investigated the effects of stereotyping on (a) reactions to a behavioral transgression and (b) the recall of information bearing on it. Subjects read a case file describing a transgression committed by a target (in Experiment 1, a job-related infraction; in Experiment 2, a criminal act). In some cases, the target's transgression was stereotypic of the target's ethnic group (conveyed through his name), and in other cases it was not. After reading the case file, subjects judged the likelihood that the transgression would recur and recommended punishment for the offense. These judgment data supported the hypothesis that stereotypes function as judgmental heuristics. Specifically, subjects used a stereotype of the target to infer the reasons for his transgression, and then based their punishment decisions on the implications of these inferences, considering other relevant information only when a stereotype-based explanation of the behavior was not available. However, recall data suggested that once a stereotype-based impression of the crime and its determinants was formed, subjects reviewed other available information in an attempt to confirm the implications of this impression. This led to differential recall of presented information, depending on whether its implications were consistent with, inconsistent with, or irrelevant to those of the stereotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Crime
  • Decision Making*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Memory*
  • Punishment
  • Stereotyping*