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Title: The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution
Author: Hutchison, Jacqui
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 474X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2015
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Cultural stereotypes highly influence people's cognition and behaviour and while a great deal is known about when they are used and why, relatively little is known about how they form and evolve over time. Recently, utilising linear diffusion chains, researchers in linguistics have demonstrated that novel languages can unintentionally form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution. We examined whether novel stereotypes might also spontaneously form and evolve in a similar manner. As information about novel social targets and their attributes was passed down a chain the information became simplified and categorically structured. Over time novel stereotypes emerged that not only made information increasingly learnable but allowed people to make inferences about previously unseen social targets (Chapter 2). In Chapter 3 we examined whether convergent stereotypes emerged when each chain was initialised with the same information. In response to findings from Chapters 2 and 3 we examined whether the category colour was more perceptually salient in categorisation than shape or movement (Chapter 4). Cognitive load was reduced in Chapter 5 to examine how this impacted stereotype formation. We subsequently examined whether stereotypes formed in a similar manner for non-social information (Chapter 6) and the impact of social identity on stereotype formation (Chapter 7). Chapter 8 looked at how the presence of existing social category information (i.e., sex) influenced the formation of stereotypes and concluded with a cross-experimental analysis in Chapter 9. We suggest that stereotype formation is a consequence of the shared cognitive limitations and biases of individuals in the chains that are exposed via cultural transmission. We believe that stereotype formation is both the unintentional and seemingly inevitable consequence of how people store, recall and share information.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: School of Psychology ; University of Aberdeen
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available