Associating the Mind

July 21, 2013 |  by

Stereotypes—the character traits we associate with a group—often change.

Before World War II, people saw Japanese as more progressive and artistic, Chinese as sly and treacherous. After the war, it flipped: Japanese were sly and treacherous while the Chinese were reserved and courteous (in a study published by Max Meenes in 1943, A Comparison of Racial Stereotypes of 1935 and 1942).

In another study, American attitudes toward Russians went from brave and hardworking in 1942 to cruel and conceited in 1948.

Sure, enemies (or immigrants) are usually seen negatively. But it’s interesting to think about how those associations change. ”To this day, most public thinking,” writes David Berreby in Us and Them (p 166), “focuses on the stereotyper and the stereotypee, ignoring the third, defining variable: [how society makes associations about the stereotype].”

 

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