ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (9): 1657-1668.

• Regular Articles •

### Do positive stereotypes have a negative impact?

WANG Zhen, GUAN Jian

1. Department of Social Psychology, Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China
• Received:2021-02-07 Online:2021-09-15 Published:2021-07-22

Abstract: Positive stereotypes are defined as positive traits describing social groups. Previous research on stereotypes has mainly focused on negative stereotypes while overlooking positive stereotypes, especially their negative effects. Here, we will discuss positive and negative effects of positive stereotypes from racial, gender and aging stereotypes and conditions for their emergence and further future research
The positive effects of positive stereotypes are mainly evinced through the stereotype boost. For example, activation of positive racial stereotypes, positive gender stereotypes and positive aging stereotypes has a positive effect on targets' minds and behaviors. The negative effects of positive stereotypes on targets' behaviors and cognition are caused by the choking under pressure effect and compensation effect of social cognition, respectively. For example, targets with positive racial stereotypes have negative attitudes and evaluations towards the stereotyper. Targets are prone to underperform in stereotyped domains in positive gender stereotypes situation. As for positive aging stereotypes, the mental and psychical health of targets can be adversely affected. Generally, positive stereotypes still induce negative effect similar to negative stereotypes in certain conditions, although having the positive side.
The effects (positive or negative) of positive stereotypes depend on the following four moderators: (1) Activation of positive stereotypes. Compared with the subtle activation of positive stereotypes, blatantly activating positive stereotypes easily cause the “choking under pressure” of targets and their sense of being depersonalized, finally resulting in a negative impact. (2) Accuracy of expressing positive stereotypes. Compared with accurately expressing positive stereotypes, the one who states positive stereotypes in an extreme way tends to generate the feeling of untruth, resulting in conflicted response of targets. (3) Individuals who state positive stereotypes. Compared with an ingroup member, positive stereotypes stated by an outgroup member easily cause the prejudice by targets, which then result in targets' negative attitudes and evaluations towards the stereotyper. (4) Culture context of positive stereotypes. Compared with collectivistic culture, positive stereotypes in individualistic culture are prone to have a sense of being depersonalized and be thread.
Further research on positive stereotypes can be discussed from the following aspects: (1) Exploration of effects of positive stereotypes in collectivistic culture. For example, China is the representative country of collectivistic cultures which emphasize “fundamental connectedness of human beings to each other”, and positive stereotypes as positive beliefs about members of social groups based on the category membership. Therefore, the Chinese feel less depersonalized when the stereotyper describe them in ways related positive stereotypes. (2) Exploration of positive stereotypes from research fields and targets, such as fields of sexual orientation and academic discipline. Academic discipline stereotypes deem that science students are superior to arts students in science, and arts students are superior to science students in arts. As a result, male science students may underperform on the science test and female arts students may underperform on the arts test when priming their major and gender identities simultaneously, due to the feeling of untruth present when activating two positive stereotypes. In addition, researchers can explore positive stereotypes of children as there are no stereotype awareness of children under 7 ages. That is one of the prerequisites for positive stereotypes having influence on targets. (3) Exploration of interventions of negative effects reduced by positive stereotypes. By far there is no research on the interventions of negative effects of positive stereotypes. However, it is not hard to assume that would be difficult to reduce the negative effects of positive stereotypes because of the complimentary nature of positive stereotypes. (4) Exploration of positive effects of negative stereotypes. Based on our knowledge, only two studies have found that negative stereotypes have positive consequences. Once more empirical evidence to support the findings can be confirmed, this would play a significant role in the domain of stereotype research, especially for the interventions of negative effects of stereotypes.

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