Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Albert J. Lott


The present investigation applied a social cognitive approach to stereotypes. The emphasis of this approach on the limitations of the information processor, focuses on the mechanisms people employ to cope with vast amounts of information input and the biases inherent in such mechanisms. One of the most pervasive of the se mechanisms, categorization, is also an essential element to stereotyping. Consequently, this approach leads to a view of stereotypes as categorization schemas with attributes such as race or sex tagged to category labels. This position was explored using the female sex-role stereotype as an exemplar. The structure and content of stereotypic categorization schemas were examined in a series of eight studies.

Stereotypic categories and their attributes were delineated solely from subject-generated protocols, which were obtained without imposing "a priori" restrictions on subjects as to number, type or content of stereotypic categories. This free-format methodology yielded remarkably consistent results. Five stereotypic categories of women emerged; housewife, career woman, sex object, female athlete and women's libber. Examination of the attributes that subjects used to describe these roles indicated that the first four roles were quite distinct. This was confirmed by factor analysis of a sex-role scale which incorporated the most frequently used attributes for each role.

The structural organization of stereotypic categories was also examined and was found to be essentially the same as that reported for other person and object categories.

The mediational function of stereotypic schemas was assessed in two studies. In a recognition memory paradigm, stereotypic categories were found to bias memory toward the stereotype, while in a free-recall task, stereotypic attributes appeared to be grouped together in memory.

These data clearly support the social cognitive interpretation of stereotypes as categorization schemas that facilitate our information processing, albeit in a biased fashion. They provide converging evidence for the utility of a social cognitive approach to stereotypes both conceptually and methodologically.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.