Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Peter F. Merenda


This study examined self-perceptions, and, their relationship to heterostereotypes and auto stereotypes in three groups: Irish students from the University Colleges of Dublin, Galway, and St. Patrick's College in Dublin; Italian students from the - University of Palermo in Sicily; and American students at the Community College of Rhode Island, Bryant College, and the University of Rhode Island.

It was predicted that, as a reflection of greater cultural homogeneity, a higher degree of within-group similarity would be found in the self-perceptions of both Italian and Irish students than in the self-perceptions of American students. It was further predicted that differences would be found across the three groups in the saliency of certain self-perceived "traits”. Finally, it was predicted that heterostereotypes would show a substantial degree of correspondence both with auto stereotypes and self perceptions.

The samples consisted of 186 Irish students, 89 males and 97 females; 179 Italian students, 83 males and 96 females; and 190 American students, 90 males and 100 females.

Students in each group responded to two open-ended questions asking them to describe, in ten adjectives or fewer, their picture of the “typical” member of the other two groups. Ethnic stereotypes of Irish, Italians, and Americans thus elicited were then compared to each group's picture of its own "typical member" (auto stereotype), and to the self-perceptions of group members.

Autostereotypes were measured by asking students to select, from the 81-word checklist of the Activity Vector Analysis (AVA) all those adjectives which best describe the “typical member” of their own cultural group.

Self perceptions were measured in two ways: the subjects responded to the AVA adjective checklist a second time by choosing all those adjectives which “best describe the person you really are”. Subjects also completed the 126-item, forced-choice Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The AVA yields scores on four vectors: aggressiveness, sociability, emotional control and social adaptability. Ipsative scores on these four vectors combine in different ways to form 258 possible “personality profile” descriptions. The MBTI yields scores on four dichotomous preferences: introversion versus extraversion; sensing versus intuition; thinking versus feeling; and judging versus perceiving. A subject's preference within each dichotomy yields a four-letter “type description”; there are sixteen possible types.

Very little correspondence was found among heterostereotypes and either auto stereotypes or self-perceptions, except for a few isolated traits. However, distributions of MBTI scores for both the Irish and Italian samples showed greater homogeneity than either the American sample or the normative U.S. sample of 3860 college students used for comparison purposes. The Irish sample was found to have a significantly greater proportion of “introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceptive” types while the Italian sample had a significantly greater proportion of "extraverted, sensing, thinking judging” types, than either the American sample or the normative U.S. sample. American students showed a greater-than-expected frequency of “sensing feeling” types than in the U.S. normative sample but overall the American sample was distributed more heterogeneously across the MBTI types than the Irish and Italian samples. Tight clusters for the self-perceptions of students as measured by the AVA profiles were also found for the Italian students, with 84% of the sample clustered tightly around either one of two AVA pattern shapes. The AVA distributions of both Irish and American students were more heterogeneous, with approximately 65% of each sample found in three clusters on the AVA pattern universe.



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