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CURRENT RESEARCH IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY


Volume 9, Number 8
Submitted: July 25, 2003
First Revision: July 26, 2003
Second Revision: September 20, 2003
Third Revision: October 15, 2003
Fourth Revision: January 6, 2004

Accepted: January 6, 2004
Publication Date: January 6, 2004

AN EXAMINATION OF RACIAL SUBTYPES VERSUS SUBGROUPS

Amy E. McCabe
Laura A. Brannon
Kansas State University

ABSTRACT

In two studies we tested the hypothesis that a subcategory relating to one social category as a subgroup (e.g., White businessman, Black person on welfare) frequently relates to a contrasting social category as a subtype (e.g., Black businessman, White person on welfare). In Study 1, we investigated how Whites currently perceive their own group and investigated the content of two major social categories relevant to the Black and White social categories (businessman, welfare), and how this content overlaps with the description of the White social group. In Study 2 we investigated the subtype/subgroup relationship in the context of social judgments concerning Blacks versus Whites. Our results supported the subtype/subgroup relationship hypothesis.

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INTRODUCTION

We addressed three major issues: 1) we updated research on the perception of a majority group (i.e., Whites in America; Fiske 1998); 2) we investigated the relationship between racial subtypes (a subcategory containing members atypical of the larger social group) and subgroups (a subcategory containing members possessing many of the characteristics consistent with those of the larger social group); and 3) we investigated the inter-relationship between the perception of the majority group, perceived subtypes, and perceived subgroups. We discuss these purposes, and the importance of such an investigation, in greater detail below.

Social Identity Theory

Social identity theory proposes that individuals derive a sense of self-esteem from their group membership. Consistent with this idea, group members tend to think that the members of their own group (the ingroup) are superior to members of another group (the outgroup; Tajfel 1982). As we discuss in more detail below, this theory relates to the processes of subtyping and subgrouping.

The Significance of Subtyping

A subtype represents a social group containing atypical instances of a larger social group (see Richards and Hewstone 2001 for a review). For example, researchers commonly discuss the Black businessman as a Black subtype. Devine and Baker (1991) found that the content of the Black businessman subtype differs significantly from the content of the general perception of Black people. As Devine and Baker (1991:48) note, the characteristics of the Black businessman "overlap very little with the global stereotype of Blacks." Participants described the Black businessman subtype as ambitious and intelligent, and Black people as lazy and poor. Thus, rather than change their perception of Black people when they encounter Black businessmen, people often create a new category. This process prevents their original perception from changing in the face of contradictory information, because it allows for the acknowledgment of deviant category members, but prevents them from affecting the perception of the larger group (Johnston and Hewstone 1992; Weber and Crocker 1983).

The Significance of Subgrouping

Richards and Hewstone (2001) described subgroups as similar to subtypes in the respect that both represent smaller categories within a larger group of people. However, unlike subtypes, people do not perceive members of subgroups as the deviant members of the category. In fact, people perceive subgroup members to possess many of the characteristics that members of the larger group possess. However, people perceive them as representing the characteristics of the larger group in a slightly different manner. As an example, if people perceive members of a volunteer organization as successful, helpful, and outgoing, they may perceive a subgroup as successful and helpful, but shy. Similarly, researchers commonly discuss the welfare/jobless Black subcategory. Devine and Baker (1991) found that the content of the welfare/jobless Black person overlaps in many respects to the content of the general perception of Black people. As Devine and Baker (1991:49) note, this subcategory contains a "fair amount of overlap with the global stereotype." Prior research indicates that subtypes and subgroups differ not only in terms of their content, but also in terms of the functions they serve (Richards and Hewstone 2001).

Subtypes serve a stereotype maintenance function and subgroups promote differentiation among group members (Maurer, Park, and Rothbart 1995; Richards and Hewstone 2001). For example, Park, Ryan, and Judd (1992) demonstrated that participants listed more in-group (one's own social category) subgroups than out-group (social categories to which one does not belong) subgroups. The researchers attributed the additional differentiation of the in-group to a desire for group members to draw distinctions between in-group members, allowing them to benefit from understanding the structure of groups to which they belong. In short, researchers consistently demonstrate that subgroups serve the function of increasing the perceived variability of a group, particularly for in-group members (resulting in a less stereotypic perception of the group; Maurer et al. 1995). This increase in variability associated with subgrouping contrasts with the stereotype-maintenance function of subtyping.

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The Relationship between Subgroups and Subtypes

We investigate the relationship between subgrouping and subtyping in the context of social groups that are perceived to contrast with each other. While past researchers investigated the functions of subtypes and subgroups as separate entities, little research examined the relationship between subtypes and subgroups (Fiske 1998; Maurer et al. 1995; Richards and Hewstone 2001). Researchers often use the terms "subtype" and "subgroup" interchangeably, despite the fact that subtypes and subgroups seem to differ significantly. We focus on the distinction between these concepts. The general term "subcategory" encompasses both subtypes and subgroups.

We tested the hypothesis that a subcategory relating to one social category as a subgroup frequently relates to a contrasting social category as a subtype. In order to explain the rationale behind this hypothesis, one must understand that stereotypes function to preserve differences between groups (Krueger and Rothbart 1990). Stereotyping involves categorizing people into groups. This categorization accentuates differences between groups of individuals (Krueger & Rothbart, 1990). Put another way, categorizing people into groups creates an ingroup-outgroup distinction between the members of those groups, allowing the members of those respective groups to see their own group as superior to the other (Tajfel 1982).

Broverman et al. (1972) demonstrated the difference-enhancing function of gender stereotypes. They found that participants perceived women as nurturing, and males as competent. Further, when participants rated an attribute as stereotypical for one gender, they generally rated its opposite as stereotypical of the other gender. For example, participants perceived females as very tactful, gentle, neat, and quiet, and males as very blunt, rough, sloppy, and loud. In short, "observers tend to assume that what is not masculine is feminine and vice versa" (Kite and Deaux 1987:93; see also Deaux and Lewis 1984; Foushee, Helmreich, and Spence 1979).

Given that stereotypes preserve the differences between groups, and that subtypes and subgroups serve different (if not opposite) functions (see Richards and Hewstone 2001 for a review of past research on this point), one might expect that when there two strong, contrasting stereotypes exist, the subtypes associated with one social category may tend to overlap with the subgroups of the contrasting social group. Importantly, although this suspected relationship between the subgroups of one category and the subtypes of a contrasting category is consistent with the functions that the two types of subcategories serve (Richards and Hewstone 2001), it by no means represents a logically required relationship. We examined an empirical question about a possible relationship between the subtypes of one category and the subgroups of a contrasting category. Although a relationship may occasionally, perhaps even frequently, exist between the two subcategories, one should not expect or require such a relationship to always exist. We attempted to address the empirical question of whether such a relationship may exist at least occasionally.

Although researchers seldom investigate the relationship between subgroups and subtypes, considerable implications for how people perceive a social group follow from the creation of a subgroup versus a subtype. Theoretically, subgroups reduce the impact of stereotypes and subtypes theoretically maintain stereotypes (Richards and Hewstone 2001). No research exists that examines this distinction within the context of racial stereotypes. In the present research, we do not demonstrate the functions that subgroups and subtypes serve with respect to stereotyping processes, because prior research established these functions (Richards and Hewstone 2001). However, we investigated the nature of the relationship between subgroups and subtypes in the context of the perception of racial groups, and, in particular, the infrequently studied White stereotype.

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Current Perceptions of Whites and White Subtypes

Maykovich (1972) investigated how Whites explicitly perceived members of their in-group. Maykovich (1972) followed the methodology of Katz and Braly (1933), asking respondents to select characteristics from a checklist that described different racial groups. Maykovich (1972) found that Whites perceived themselves as materialistic, aggressive, pleasure-loving, ambitious, and industrious. Little recent research examines how Whites perceive themselves (Fiske 1998). However, Wittenbrink, Judd, and Park (1997) found that White participants hold implicitly positive beliefs about their own group (as social identity theory predicts; Tajfel 1982). We investigated how White individuals currently perceive the members of their in-group. Additionally, few researchers investigated the perceived subtypes of Whites. According to Fiske (1998:379), "Subtypes of Whites are not documented in the stereotyping literature, which necessarily lags behind everyday knowledge; the subtypes are there, according to anecdote, but social psychologists have not yet reported them." In the past, most subtyping researchers examined the impact of subtypes on the maintenance of stereotypes of low-status and minority groups (e.g., Blacks; Devine and Baker 1991). Few researchers examined the impact of subtypes on the maintenance of perceptions of high-status and majority groups (e.g., Whites). Thus, we examined subtypes with respect to majority group members.

Overview and Predictions

In the first study we identified a current description of how Whites perceive themselves, and identified descriptions of the content of two common subcategories. In Study 1 we also provided an initial investigation of the distinction between subtypes versus subgroups, as determined by the extent of overlapping content with perceptions of Whites as a social group. In Study 2 we explored the implications of the distinction between subtypes and subgroups in the context of perceived contrasting social groups: Whites and Blacks. We predicted that a subcategory that relates to one social category as a subgroup, to some extent, relates to a perceived contrasting social category as a subtype.

PRELIMINARY STUDY: IDENTIFICATION OF WHITE SUBCATEGORIES

Prior to the main investigation, preliminary study participants identified the most common White subcategories. White freshman undergraduate students (n = 278; 177 females; mean age 18.9 years) enrolled in psychology courses at a large southwestern university listed different types of White people (Deaux, Winton, Crowley, and Lewis 1985).

Two trained undergraduate judges independently categorized the types of White people participants listed. The judges agreed on 95% of the categorizations, and resolved the remaining 5% of disagreements through discussion. Subcategories that at least 20% of participants listed spontaneously reflected meaningful subcategories: upper class (39.6%), welfare (27.3%), racist (24.1%), snob (23.7%), and businessman (20.1%).

STUDY 1: DESCRIBING THE TYPICAL WHITE PERSON AND TWO COMMON SUBCATEGORIES

In Study 1 we identified the characteristics people used to describe the typical person on welfare and businessman. We examined these social groups from the preliminary study for further investigation because, in addition to our identification of them as White subcategories (see above), researchers identified similar subcategories with regard to the Black social group (e.g. welfare/jobless Black and the Black businessman; Devine and Baker 1991). In Study 2 we examined the relationship between subtypes and subgroups for the contrasting perceptions of Whites and Blacks. Therefore, in Study 2 we focused on subcategories relevant to the perceptions of Blacks and Whites in Study 1. In this initial investigation into the existence of the hypothesized subtype/subgroup relationship, we examined the subcategories most relevant to both the Black and White social groups. Participants identified characteristics relevant either to the White person, the person on welfare, or the businessman social groups.

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Method

Participants

Ninety-one White freshman undergraduate students (44 females; mean age 19.9 years) enrolled in psychology courses at a large southwestern university participated in exchange for course credit.

Materials

Checklist. Participants completed an adjective checklist based upon the 84-item checklist introduced by Katz and Braly (1933). The present checklist included almost all of the original items with a few exceptions and included several additional items.


The original Katz and Braly (1933) study included Princeton undergraduates as participants. Several undergraduates at our institution (one that does not have as high of admissions standards as Princeton) reviewed the original checklist. Based upon their feedback, we revised the checklist and eliminated traits that current participants considered either somewhat unfamiliar, awkward, or somewhat dated. In the revised checklist we eliminated or replaced the following original traits (replacements in parentheses): pugnacious (synonyms argumentative, quick-tempered, and quarrelsome appeared on the original list), stolid, gregarious (friendly and sociable), ostentatious/showy (replaced with just showy), slovenly (messy), meditative (thoughtful and introspective), gluttonous and grasping (greedy), pleasure-loving, and happy-go-lucky (carefree). Importantly, we expanded the earlier Katz and Braly (1933) scale without changing its original meaning. In other words, although additions appeared, the original content remained substantially unchanged.

In addition, Katz and Braly (1933) asked 25 participants to list "as many specific characteristics or traits as you think are typical of the following racial and national groups" in order to compile the original checklist, then supplemented this list with their own additions. Katz and Braly (1933) did not report how many participants had to mention a word for it to be included in the checklist.

In order to update and supplement the current checklist, 23 White participants listed traits that they thought described White people in general. Given that in Study 1 we also examined the perceptions of persons on welfare and of businesspersons, pretest participants also listed traits that described members of these two groups. Therefore, participants completed, in a counterbalanced order, listings of traits describing Whites, people on welfare, and businesspersons.

In an attempt to avoid omitting potentially important characteristics, attributes that multiple participants listed appeared on the final checklist. The new attributes included: careful with money, careless with money, childish, community-oriented, considerate, cooperative, criminal, demanding, depressed, determined, dishonest, dislikable, educated, emotional, fighting, good looking, hard working, hostile, humorous, immoral, inefficient, large family, law-abiding, likable, loyal, many, militant, moral, nervous, noble, physically skilled, poor, popular, primitive, proud, rare, respectful, rhythmic, romantic, ruthless, savage, selfish, spiritual, spiteful, strange, temperamental, tricky, trustworthy, unambitious, uneducated, unfriendly, unintelligent, untrustworthy, wealthy, well-dressed, and violent.

In sum, the checklist used in the present investigation contained a total of 140 common characteristics (approximately 44% positive, 44% negative, and 12% neutral) drawn from the current social cognition literature and adjectives a pretest sample listed as relevant to the descriptions of the White person, businessperson, and, person on welfare (see Appendix A for this checklist).

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In order to validate the valence of the 140 attributes in the final checklist, forty-six White undergraduates were given the checklist and instructed that "Below is a checklist containing adjectives and traits that can be used to describe people. Place a '+' in the box to the left of traits that you think are considered by most people to be Positive (good, desirable to have). Place a '-' in the box to the left of traits that you think are considered by most people to be Negative (bad, undesirable). Place an "N" to the left of traits that you think are Neutral (neither particularly good nor bad to have, or you're unsure/undecided). Answer based upon what you think most people would say." See Appendix A for the valence attributed by at least half of participants to each characteristic.

Procedure

In a between-subjects design, ninety-one participants placed checkmarks next to adjectives on the checklist consistent with their perceptions of one of three groups: businessman, person on welfare, or White person.

Results

Consistent with Katz and Braly’s (1933) methodology, we calculated the percentage of participants selecting each adjective as a component of each category. Adjectives that at least two-thirds of participants selected described each group, because this percentage was higher than chance level (fifty percent), yet low enough to include a sufficient grouping of adjectives to describe each social group. In addition, prior subtyping researchers (e.g., Devine and Baker 1991; see note to Table 4) found similar (67%) agreement patterns.

Description of the Typical White Person

Whites selected nine characteristics to describe their own group: educated (93.8%), ambitious (78.1%), family-oriented (71.9%), religious (71.9%), sociable (71.9%), conservative (68.8%), hardworking (68.8%), sophisticated (68.8%), and wealthy (68.8%). In these results we provide an updated description of Whites’ perceptions of their in-group, which differs slightly, but not completely, from how Whites described themselves in prior investigations (e.g., Maykovich 1972 reported that the Whites described their own group as materialistic, aggressive, pleasure-loving, ambitious, and industrious).

The original Katz and Braly (1933) study included both Black and White participants. In their study, participants described Whites (Americans) as industrious, intelligent, materialistic, ambitious, progressive, and pleasure-loving. Maykovich (1972) reported that Whites described their own group as materialistic, aggressive, pleasure-loving, ambitious, and industrious. The perception of Whites deteriorated somewhat in 1972 compared to in 1933 (including the attribute of being aggressive, while omitting intelligent and progressive as attributes). However, Whites' currently perceive their group in a generally positive manner: In the present study, Whites no longer described their group as aggressive and materialistic, although they still described themselves as ambitious and industrious/hardworking. Whites also described themselves as being educated, family-oriented, religious, sociable, conservative, sophisticated, and wealthy. Overall, Whites' currently perceive their own group as positively, if not more positively, as in the past. This finding paralleled that of Wittenbrink, Judd, and Park (1997), indicating that White participants hold implicitly positive beliefs about their own group. Social identity theory (Tajfel 1982) predicts a similar outcome as well.

Descriptions of the Typical Businessman and Person on Welfare

Businessman. Nine adjectives described the businessman: educated (93.1%), ambitious (86.2%), hardworking (86.2%), well-dressed (86.2%), careful with money (82.8%), aggressive (79.3%), intelligent (79.3%), determined (72.4%), and efficient (69.0%).

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Person on Welfare. Six adjectives described the person on welfare: poor (96.7%), lazy (86.7%), uneducated (83.3%), depressed (70.0%), careless with money (66.7%), and unreliable (66.7%).

In the present study we attempted to 1) obtain descriptions of these subcategories and to 2) compare the characteristics that describe the businessman and person on welfare to the characteristics that describe the typical White person. We performed chi-square tests to compare the percentage of participants who selected characteristics as relevant to each social group.

Comparisons between White Person and Businessman

Considerable overlap existed between the description of the typical White person and businessman. Refer to Table 1 for the comparison of the White person and businessman categories. No significant differences (p > .05) appeared between the characteristics describing the typical White person and businessman on 9 of the 15 characteristics compared: educated, ambitious, sociable, conservative, hardworking, sophisticated, wealthy, intelligent, and determined.

Table 1. Number of Participants Selecting Characteristics to Describe the Typical White Person versus the Typical Businessman

Characteristic

White Person (n=32)

Businessman (n=29)

Chi-Square (Yate's Correction)

Educated

30

27

Ns

Ambitious

25

25

Ns

Family-Oriented

23

8

10.23***

Religious

23

3

21.10***

Sociable

23

15

Ns

Conservative

22

18

Ns

Hardworking

22

25

Ns

Sophisticated

22

16

Ns

Wealthy

22

17

Ns

Intelligent

21

23

Ns

Well-dressed

20

25

Ns

Determined

16

21

Ns

Careful w/ Money

13

24

9.62**

Efficient

13

20

3.85*

Aggressive

7

23

17.85***

Note * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

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Although significant overlap existed between the descriptions of the White person and the businessman, differences appeared on 5 of the 15 characteristics. Participants described the White person as significantly more family-oriented and religious than the businessman; and the businessman as significantly more careful with money, efficient, and aggressive than the White person.

Comparisons between White Person and Person on Welfare

Refer to Table 2 for the comparison of the characteristics participants perceived as relevant to the White person and the person on welfare social groups. No overlap appeared between the characteristics describing these groups. Significant differences emerged between the characteristics describing the typical White person and person on welfare on all 15 characteristics compared. Participants described the typical White person as significantly more educated, ambitious, family-oriented, religious, sociable, conservative, hardworking, sophisticated, and wealthy than the typical person on welfare.

Table 2. Number of Participants Selecting Characteristics to Describe the Typical White Person versus the Typical Person on Welfare

Characteristic

White Person (n=32)

Welfare (n = 30)

Chi-Square (Yate's Correction)

Educated

30

0

50.80***

Ambitious

25

0

36.09***

Family-Oriented

23

7

12.73***

Religious

23

2

24.72***

Sociable

23

0

31.27***

Conservative

22

3

19.84***

Hardworking

22

4

17.32***

Sophisticated

22

0

29.04***

Wealthy

22

0

29.04***

Careless w/ Money

11

20

5.23*

Lazy

3

26

34.12***

Depressed

2

21

24.30***

Poor

1

29

50.57***

Unreliable

1

20

25.15***

Uneducated

0

25

41.29***

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

Conversely, participants described the typical person on welfare as significantly more careless with money, lazy, depressed, poor, unreliable, and uneducated than the typical White person.

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Discussion

In the present study we compared the characteristics participants selected to describe the businessman and person on welfare subcategories to the characteristics participants used to describe the typical White person. The description of the businessman overlaps to some degree with the description of the typical White person, while the description of the person on welfare did not overlap with the description of the typical White person. This suggests that the businessman subcategory represents a subgroup of Whites (or, as a group Whites are willing to consider an ingroup), whereas the person on welfare subcategory represents a subtype of Whites (or, as a group Whites perceive as an outgroup, or a group of people not belonging to the ingroup; Tajfel 1982).

STUDY 2: SIMILARITY OF SUBCATEGORIES TO BLACK AND WHITE CATEGORIES

In Study 1 we demonstrated a fair amount of overlap between how participants describe the typical White person and the typical businessman, but virtually no overlap between how participants describe the typical White person and the typical person on welfare. This provided indirect evidence that businessman represents a subgroup (perceived as an ingroup) of Whites, and that welfare represents a subtype (perceived as an outgroup) of Whites.

In Study 2 we investigated how participants perceive the similarity of these social groups. More specifically, in Study 2 we tested the hypothesis that participants perceive the White businessman as similar to a typical White person (or from the perspective of Whites, an ingroup member), whereas participants do not perceive the typical White person on welfare as similar to the typical White person (or from the perspective of Whites, an outgroup member).

We also investigated the similarity of the typical Black businessman and Black person on welfare to the typical Black person. Past researchers demonstrated that participants perceive the typical Black person as poor, lazy, and unintelligent (Devine and Baker 1991; Fiske 1998), while they perceive the typical person on welfare as lazy, poor, and unintelligent (as demonstrated in the previous study). However, the stereotypical perceptions of Blacks and of businessmen (educated, intelligent, and ambitious) share little overlap. Given the overlapping descriptions of the Black person and the person on welfare, and the non-overlapping descriptions of the Black person and businessman (see also Devine and Baker 1991), in the present study we directly investigated the perceived similarity of each subcategory to the description of the typical Black person. Specifically, based on past research (Devine and Baker 1991) we predicted that participants would rate the typical Black person and Black person on welfare as similar to one another relative to the Black businessman, whereas, again based on past research (Devine and Baker 1991) participants would not rate the typical Black person and Black businessman as being similar to one another relative to the Black person on welfare. This pattern would indicate that person on welfare represents a subgroup of Blacks, and businessman represents a subtype of Blacks.

Conversely, for Whites, we predicted (based upon Study 1) that the White person and White businessman would be rated as similar to one another relative to the White person on welfare, while participants would not rate the White person and White person on welfare as being similar to one another relative to the White businessman. This pattern would again indicate that businessman represents a subgroup/perceived ingroup of Whites, and person on welfare represents a subtype/perceived outgroup of Whites.

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Method

Participants and Procedure

Sixty-nine White freshman undergraduate students (44 females; mean age 19.1 years) enrolled in psychology courses at a large southwestern university participated in exchange for course credit. In a within-subjects design, participants judged, in counterbalanced order, the similarity of the typical: 1) White person and White person on welfare, 2) White person and White businessman, 3) Black person and Black person on welfare, and 4) Black person and Black businessman. We considered these final two comparisons important based on previous research that did not include explicit similarity ratings (Devine and Baker 1991). Participants provided all similarity ratings along seven-point scales ranging from 1 (extremely dissimilar) to 7 (extremely similar).

Results

A 2 (Race) x (Category) repeated measures analysis of variance compared mean similarity ratings of each category to each race. Although the main effect for Race did not approach significance [F(1, 68) = 0.08, ns], a significant main effect for Category emerged, [F(1, 68) = 12.34, p < .001]. A significant Race x Category interaction [F(1, 68) = 118.11, p < .0001] qualified this main effect.

In order to investigate the significant Race x Category interaction, we performed two dependent t-tests with a Bonferroni adjustment to compare the mean similarity ratings (p = .025 for each comparison). As predicted, the mean similarity rating of the Black person and Black person on welfare (M = 4.38) significantly exceeded the mean similarity rating of the Black person and Black businessman (M = 2.90) [t(68) = 5.47, p < .025]. Also, the mean similarity rating of the White person and White businessman (M = 4.91) significantly exceeded the mean similarity rating of the White person and White person on welfare (M = 2.29) [t(68) = 11.59, p < .025].

Discussion

Participants perceive the typical White businessman as relatively more similar to the typical White person than the typical White person on welfare. Alternatively, participants perceive the typical Black person on welfare as relatively more similar to the typical Black person than the typical Black businessman. This suggests that the businessman subcategory relates to the White stereotype as a subgroup and to the Black stereotype as a subtype, whereas the person on welfare subcategory relates to the Black stereotype as a subgroup and to the White stereotype as a subtype.

GENERAL DISCUSSION

In Study 1 we demonstrated that Whites described the typical White person in primarily positive terms. We also identified White subcategories. In Study 2 we demonstrated that at least some subcategories that represent subtypes of the typical White person represent subgroups of the typical Black person; whereas at least some subcategories that represent subtypes of the typical Black person represent subgroups of the typical White person.

Strong and contrasting perceptions of the Black and White social categories exist on similar dimensions (e.g., lazy versus ambitious). Participants described the typical person on welfare in a way that does not overlap with how they described the typical White person (Study 1), and rated the typical White person on welfare as different from a White person (Study 2) relative to the White businessman. However, the description of the typical Black person overlaps with the description of the typical person on welfare, based on past research concerning the Black stereotype (Devine and Baker 1991; Fiske 1998). In the present research, participants judged the Black person on welfare as similar to the typical Black person (Study 2) relative to the Black businessman. Therefore, the description of the typical person on welfare contrasts with the description of the typical White person, but assimilates with the description of the typical Black person. Consequently, the person on welfare appears to represent a subtype of the typical White person (i.e., Whites perceive the person on welfare as an outgroup) and to represent a subgroup of the typical Black person.

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Participants rated the White businessman as similar to a White person (Study 2) relative to the typical White person on welfare. This suggests that the businessman represents a subgroup of Whites (i.e., Whites perceive businessman as an ingroup). However, participants rated the typical Black businessman as dissimilar to a Black person (Study 2) relative to the typical Black person on welfare. This suggests that Whites consider Black businessmen to represent a subtype of Blacks.

Implications of the Present Research

Although past researchers investigated how Whites perceive their own social group (Maykovich 1972), researchers largely ignored this perception in recent years (Fiske 1998). In the present research we update the description of this perception. Similarly, future research should update how minority social group members perceive White individuals. Also, we recommend investigation of the extent to which the subtype/subgroup relationship established in the present investigation for the welfare and business subcategories (central to both the Black and White social categories) holds up for subcategories more peripheral to the Black and White stereotypes.

In the current studies we illustrate the difficulty of changing perceptions of social groups by highlighting the mechanisms employed to maintain these perceptions. Instead of changing a negative perception of a social group (e.g., that group members are lazy) when people encounter group members who contradict the perception of the larger social group (e.g., ambitious businessmen), individuals fence off those atypical members from the main group in a process known as subtyping. Conversely, when people encounter group members they perceive to deviate only slightly from the larger social group, they tend to continue to view them as relatively good examples of the group in a process known as subgrouping. This subgrouping, unfortunately, seldom leads to a modification of the stereotype, however. In fact, "a perceiver who holds multiple, stereotypical, and negative subgroups that overlap with the superordinate category may still hold a strong negative stereotype" (Richards and Hewstone 2001:63). As stated previously, past researchers focused on the functions that subtyping versus subgrouping serve. However, understanding the nature of the relationship between these two types of categories, and how they contribute to the maintenance of stereotypes, may lead to a better understanding of intergroup relations.

Limitations of the Present Research

The nature of the similarity ratings obtained in this research differed slightly from the perceived likelihood ratings of a subcategory for a social group typically obtained in similar research on social groups and types. Although we used one valid measure of subgrouping/subtyping that resembles the likelihood judgment measure (Weber-Kollmann 1985), future researchers should replicate the present findings using a measure of perceived likelihood of a subcategory.

In addition, in the present research we did not include a full set of comparisons in Study 2 (i.e., it did not directly compare the businessman and person on welfare types, nor Black versus White types). Future researchers should include the full set of comparisons.

Finally, given that we used White participants in our studies, we identified a possible White subgroup (businessman) and a possible White subtype (person on welfare) from a White in-group perspective; and a possible Black subgroup (person on welfare) and a possible Black subtype (businessman) from an out-group perspective. Future researchers with Black participants could examine the same subcategories from a Black in-group perspective in order to verify the generality of the subgroup/subtype relationship.

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APPENDIX 1: ADJECTIVE CHECKLIST USED IN STUDY 1

Below is a checklist containing adjectives and traits that can be used to describe people. Place a checkmark in the box to the left of any adjective that you feel is consistent with the socially held stereotype of the typical (BLANK).

-

Aggressive

-

Fighting

N

Methodical

+

Sensual

+

Alert

+

Friendly

-

Militant

-

Showy

+

Ambitious

-

Frivolous

+

Moral

-

Shrewd

-

Argumentative

+

Generous

+

Musical

-

Sly

-

Arrogant

+

Good Looking

-

Naïve

+

Sociable

+

Artistic

-

Greedy

+

Nationalistic

+

Sophisticated

-

Boastful

+

Hard working

+

Neat

+

Spiritual

+

Brilliant

+

Honest

-

Nervous

-

Spiteful

+

Carefree

-

Hostile

+

Noble

+

Sportspersonlike

+

Careful with Money

-

Humorless

+

Passionate

+

Straightforward

-

Careless with Money

+

Humorous

+

Persistent

-

Strange

-

Childish

-

Ignorant

+

Physically Skilled

-

Stubborn

+

Community-oriented

+

Imaginative

-

Poor

-

Stupid

-

Conceited

-

Imitative

+

Popular

+

Suave

N

Conservative

-

Immoral

+

Practical

N

Suggestible

+

Considerate

-

Impulsive

-

Primitive

N

Superstitious

N

Conventional

+

Individualistic

+

Progressive

-

Suspicious

+

Cooperative

-

Indulgent

+

Proud

+

Talkative

+

Courteous

+

Industrious

-

Quarrelsome

-

Temperamental

-

Cowardly

-

Inefficient

-

Quick-tempered

+

Thoughtful

-

Criminal

+

Intelligent

N

Quiet

+

Traditional

-

Cruel

N

Introspective

N

Radical

-

Treacherous

-

Deceitful

-

Irresponsible

+

Rare

-

Tricky

-

Demanding

+

Jovial

+

Religious

+

Trustworthy

-

Depressed

+

Kind

N

Reserved

-

Unambitious

+

Determined

N

Large Family

+

Respectful

-

Uneducated

-

Dirty

+

Law-abiding

-

Revengeful

-

Unemotional

-

Dishonest

-

Lazy

N

Rhythmic

-

Unfriendly

-

Dislikable

+

Likable

+

Romantic

-

Unintelligent

+

Educated

N

Loud

-

Rude

-

Unreliable

+

Efficient

+

Loyal

-

Ruthless

-

Untrustworthy

N

Emotional

N

Many

-

Savage

N

Wealthy

-

Evasive

-

Materialistic

+

Scientific

+

Well-dressed

+

Faithful

N

Mercenary

-

Selfish

-

Violent

+

Family-oriented

-

Messy

+

Sensitive

+

Witty

Note. Symbols in the boxes to the left of the attributes indicate valence. "+" indicates a positive attribute; "N" indicates a neutral attribute; and "-" indicates a negative attribute, as determined by the most common ratings of 46 undergraduates. See text for description of validation of characteristics' valences.

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APPENDIX 2: CORRELATION MATRIX WITH MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS FOR SIMILARITY RATINGS OF CATEGORIES AND SUBCATEGORIES IN STUDY 2

Category/Subcategory Comparison

N

M

SD

(1)

(2)

(3)

White Person/Welfare (1)

69

2.29

0.99

     

White Person/Businessman (2)

69

4.91

1.62

.03

   

Black Person/Welfare (3)

69

4.38

1.71

.08

.30*

 

Black Person/Businessman (4)

69

2.90

1.14

.08

.08

-.21

Note. * p < .05

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES

Amy E. McCabe is a Ph.D. candidate at Kansas State University. Her area of expertise is attitudes and persuasion. Her e-mail address is amccabe@ksu.edu.

Laura A. Brannon, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Psychology at Kansas State University. Her area of expertise is attitudes and persuasion. Her e-mail address is lbrannon@ksu.edu.

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