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Lee Jussim is the chairman of the psychology department at Rutgers and perhaps the leading expert on stereotypes and bias. He has a new academic book out:

Social Perception and Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy contests the received wisdom in the field of social psychology that suggests that social perception and judgment are generally flawed, biased, and powerfully self-fulfilling. Jussim reviews a wealth of real world, survey, and experimental data collected over the last century to show that in fact, social psychological research consistently demonstrates that biases and self-fulfilling prophecies are generally weak, fragile, and fleeting. Furthermore, research in the social sciences has shown stereotypes to be accurate.  

Jussim overturns the received wisdom concerning social perception in several ways. He critically reviews studies that are highly cited darlings of the bias conclusion and shows how these studies demonstrate far more accuracy than bias, or are not replicable in subsequent research. Studies of equal or higher quality, which have been replicated consistently, are shown to demonstrate high accuracy, low bias, or both. The book is peppered with discussions suggesting that theoretical and political blinders have led to an odd state of affairs in which the flawed or misinterpreted bias studies receive a great deal of attention, while stronger and more replicable accuracy studies receive relatively little attention. In addition, the author presents both personal and real world examples (such as stock market prices, sporting events, and political elections) that routinely undermine heavy-handed emphases on error and bias, but are generally indicative of high levels of rationality and accuracy. He fully embraces scientific data, even when that data yields unpopular conclusions or contests prevailing conventions or the received wisdom in psychology, in other social sciences, and in broader society.

The funny thing is that this successful academic has a rather non-academic style. Jussim has summaries of each chapter up online here.

Chapter 17. Pervasive Stereotype Accuracy 


    This chapter reviews every high quality study of stereotype accuracy that I could find.  It presents the evidence with respect to personal and consensual accuracy, using both correlations and discrepancy scores (see Chapter 16 for an explanation of what these are).  It includes sections reviewing the empirical research on racial, gender, and other stereotypes. When the original studies addressed conditions under which accuracy was higher or lower, that, too, is included here.  Furthermore, each study is critically evaluated, highlighting both its strengths and its limitations.  Overall, this review indicates that the high quality, scientific research consistently shows that stereotype accuracy is one of the largest effects in all of social psychology.   



    This chapter contains contents that may be deeply upsetting to anyone committed to the view of stereotypes as inherently or generally inaccurate and irrational.  If you have read this book continuously, you undoubtedly do not need these warnings and know what to expect.  However, these warnings are necessary for anyone reading this chapter without reading the rest of the book.  

    Warning I: DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER without having first read Chapters 10-12, 15 and 16.  You will need those chapters to understand what I mean by accuracy generally, and when I describe the results of the studies reviewed below as showing that people’s beliefs were “accurate,” “near misses” or “inaccurate” in this chapter. 

    Warning II: DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER, unless you are willing to consider the possibility that stereotypes are often accurate. DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER, if you think that merely considering the possibility that many of people’s beliefs about groups (stereotypes) have a great deal of accuracy makes someone a racist, sexist, etc.  DO NOT READ THIS CHAPTER if you believe that stereotypes are inherently inaccurate, flawed, irrational, rigid, etc., and this belief cannot be or should not be revised if empirical scientific data fail to fully support it.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Stereotypes 
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The Stanford sociology department is sponsoring a speech on an exciting conceptual breakthrough: “Stereotype Promise.”

Jennifer Lee
Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine
Visiting Scholar, Russell Sage Foundation 

The Tiger Mother and Asian American Exceptionalism?
Framing Success and “Stereotype Promise” among LA’s Second Generation 

*Jointly sponsored with the Department of Sociology and the Center for Comparative Studies on Race and Ethnicity
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Colloquium with Q&A 12:30-1:45
email for more information 

“Why do second-generation Asians exhibit exceptional academic outcomes, even when controlling for socioeconomic factors like parental education, occupation, and income? … Moreover, the external validation and reinforcement of the frame by teachers can generate a “stereotype promise” among Asians—the promise of being viewed through the lens of a positive stereotype that leads one to perform in such a way that confirms the positive stereotype, thereby boosting one’s performance. As a result, Asian students—regardless of ethnicity, class, and gender—gain an advantage over their non-Asian peers in the context of U.S. schools.”

I don’t think “stereotype promise” reminds people enough of “stereotype threat.” “Threat” and “promise” are kind of antonyms, but it’s not self-evident that they are being used as opposites. Therefore, Professor Lee’s assertion that that Asians outperform others because teachers are biased in favor of apple-polishing Asian students should be renamed “stereotype pet.”
Is it true? I don’t know, but it’s definitely more memorable as Stereotype Threat / Pet.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Stereotypes 
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I finally got around to watching the 2010 documentary “Babies” that follows the first year of life of one baby each in San Francisco, Tokyo, rural Mongolia, and rural Namibia. There’s no narration. It’s like a greatest hits collection of home movies, if they were all beautifully lit.

Babies are pretty much the same (cute) everywhere, so the main interest is looking at the four different environments from a baby’s point of view.

Mongolia looks like the most fun of the four places to be a baby. Dad takes Mom and the new baby home from the hospital on the back of his amped-up motorcycle. Mom looks like she’d prefer to ride in a Camry but Dad is no doubt a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, so what are you going to do? The Mongolian baby gets to live in a nicely furnished yurt on a ranch on the steppe, with lots of fancy carpets indoors and endless grass outdoors, like the Teletubbies set. It’s a good place to fall down, which you do a lot when you are a baby. Plus, there are a huge number of animals around to look at (watch the trailer embedded above to the end), and he has an older brother to poke him and otherwise make life more interesting. 
Life is pretty similar for the Tokyo and San Francisco babies of yuppie couples, who are only children. Lots of polished hardwood floors, and only cats for animal company. The yuppie parents constantly point out interesting things to their babies and talk to them about it to get them ready for their SATs in 17 years. For example, the Tokyo mom belongs to a baby group with other mothers of only children. They all push their strollers to the zoo and helpfully point out to their babies the tiger, which terrifies the morsel-sized infants, but presumably will help them get into a good college someday.
The Namibian baby has lots of siblings and cousins around — there are, evidently, a lot of babies in Namibia — but the whole place is dirt. The women usually sit on pieces of cloth on the dirt, but they just let the babies crawl around in the dirt. The menfolk are never around. Are they all working in mines sending home paychecks or are they drinking at the shebeen?

Just as you would expect from that popular Hart and Risley study about how professional parents speak 427 million words to their children by age 1 or whatever, while underclass parents can barely be motivated to say “Shut up” to their kids, the Namibian women don’t seem to have much to say to their children.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Movies, Stereotypes 
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From my column:

Over the last 15 years, the most popular theory about racial differences in IQ has been “Stereotype Threat.” The New York Times summarized it in its 2009 Year in Ideas featurette on the purported “Obama Effect”—the widespread assumption that the politician’s success might raise black test scores:

“In 1995, two Stanford psychologists, Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, demonstrated that African-American college students did worse on tests of academic ability when they were exposed beforehand to suggestions that they were being judged according to their race. Steele and Aronson hypothesized that this effect, which they labeled stereotype threat, might explain part of the persistent achievement gap between white and black students. In the years since, this idea has spread throughout the social sciences.”

Stereotype Threat is a beautiful theory for explaining the racial IQ gap. Indeed, I myself have often felt there might even be a little bit of truth to the idea that expectations matter—even though common sense suggests that incentives matter more.

But now, it turns out that the vaunted evidence for this wildly popular concept rests heavily upon another Effect, the File Drawer Effect—defined as “the practice of researchers filing away studies with negative outcomes”. We seem to have another Climate Research Unit scandal on our hands.

A researcher, who doesn’t want his name or any potentially identifying information mentioned, for unfortunately obvious career reasons, recently attended a presentation at a scientific conference. Here is his summary of what he heard:

“One talk presented a meta-analysis of stereotype threat. The presenter was able to find a ton of unpublished studies. The overall conclusion is that stereotype threat does not exist. The unpublished and published studies were compared on many indices of quality, including sample size, and the only variable predicting publication was whether a significant effect of stereotype threat was found. …

“This is quite embarrassing for psychology as a science.”

Here’s the abstract of the presentation he heard (see p. 68 of the PDF)

“Numerous laboratory experiments have been conducted to show that African Americans’ cognitive test performance suffers under stereotype threat, i.e., the fear of confirming negative stereotypes concerning one’s group. A meta-analysis of 55 published and unpublished studies of this effect shows clear signs of publication bias.”

[Stereotype threat and the cognitive test performance of African Americans, by Jelte M. Wicherts & Cor de Haan, University of Amsterdam]

In other words, if a study doesn’t find the existence of stereotype threat, it’s less likely to see the light of day. Positive results are more appealing to journal editors, and politically correct positive results are loveliest of all. In contrast, how much of a market is there for punching holes in society’s fondest hopes?

The Dutch researchers continue:

“The effect varies widely across studies, and is generally small. Although elite university undergraduates may underperform on cognitive tests due to stereotype threat, this effect does not generalize to non-adapted standardized tests, high-stakes settings, and less academically gifted test-takers.”

Note that “Stereotype Threat” mostly seems to exist in settings where test-takers, such as “elite university undergraduates,” are smart enough to pick up on researchers’ hints about what results they hope to publish. In the marketing research industry, it’s well known that survey respondents tend to respond with the answers that they surmise the pollster wants. Human beings like to be cooperative if it doesn’t cost them anything. Similarly, it’s likely not hard for black students at top research universities to gather that they can benefit their professor with a publishable paper just by working less diligently on the meaningless test he’s given them.

Moreover, “Stereotype Threat” doesn’t seem to exist where the test is important enough to matter to the students.


(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: IQ, Stereotypes 
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Can you guess which two cities lead the new list of top 50 metropolitan areas in terms of the highest percentage of adults volunteering for charity? And which two cities came in last? These aren’t trick questions.

Stereotypes tend to be true.

See the Comments (click right below) for the answers.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Stereotypes 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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