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Female Social Stereotype Perception among Students: A Research Proposal
Social stereotypes refer to the evaluation of a group based on its visible characteristics. The essence of the phenomenon is to fill the gaps in peoples perception. It is beneficial to some degree, but it may lead to the problematic consequences such as superiority and inferiority feelings as well as discrimination. By addressing the process of formation and development of social stereotypes, the awareness of imposing the stereotypes may increase. The proposal investigates the female stereotypes as perceived by men and women. The research question is What is the difference between men and women in perception of female stereotypes? There are two working hypotheses.
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The first hypothesis is that men agree with female stereotypes and they can prove their validity with real-life examples. The second hypothesis is that women tend to disagree with female stereotypes and they can share real-life examples to support their view. The proposal employs a mixed research method that includes qualitative focus groups and quantitative Liker scale questionnaires. It uses a random sampling of the student population of 20-25 years to recruit 40 participants. The research is likely to conclude that men have the tendency to agree with female stereotypes and support their belief by their real-life stories. The second finding is expected to be that women will share the opposing view as a group and present real-life examples to support their view. The research acknowledges its limitations; thus, it proposes replicating the same study with male stereotypes to increase the validity of findings.
Stereotypes are a simplified mechanism of disseminating the environment. Social stereotypes help individuals to understand the people around based on their vivid characteristics. Therefore, this phenomenon can significantly affect the communication process and hinder future relationships. Women often become stereotyped due to their gender. They may be perceived as unable to drive, to be incompetent in careers, or to have an unstable behavior. The current project aims to analyze the perceptions towards female-based stereotypes among female and male students. The study hypothesizes that female students are to find the cluster of stereotypes offensive, while male students are to claim that the stereotypes are true.
Individuals use the special methods of categorizing people into particular clusters according to their characteristics of group belonging (Adler & Proctor, 2007). The defined categories determine the way of communication with others based on the first impression.
Despite the fact that the grouping strategy helps to make sense of the environment, eventually it leads to labeling and stereotyping. Adler and Proctor (2007) give the definition of stereotype as being exaggerated generalizations associated with categorizing system (p. 87). The process of seeking for particular common characteristics is not a negative factor in essence. At the same time, it is dangerous, as people tend to internalize the idea. Thus, it creates the problem of upside-down perception.
Stereotypes are self-fulfilling mechanisms because people seek for particular confirmation of their perceptions about others (Hargie, Saunders, & Dickson, 1994). For example, career men tend to seek the evidence and pay more attention to the aspects that confirm their beliefs that women cannot succeed at high influence jobs (Bawazeer, 2015). The phenomenon may also provoke the women to behave in the way to sustain such a perception, as they feel discouraged.
The theoretical process of stereotype formation consists of several stages. The first stage is categorizing (Macrae, Stangor, & Hewstone, 1996). Each woman is allocated to the particular group based on her evident trait – gender. Thus, people are more likely to put a label on a blonde woman expecting her to be dumb because all blondes should be dumb. The probability of categorization increases tremendously when people lack the information about the individual. The same applies when circumstances present only the minimum evidence (Madon, Guyll, Hilbert, Kyriakatos, & Vogel, 2006). The next stage is seeking for corresponding correlation to increase the assurance in categorizing (Macrae et al., 1996). This process is a practical implementation of the matching rule because individuals match a particular fact with the previous experiences. Usually, it passes through the target evaluation – if a target matches one aspect, then it should match the other (Madon et al., 2006).
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Individuals define the criteria to get the full picture of an unknown person and choose the proper behavior. The very last stage is application of the idea when people seek for practical evidence to generate the assumption and be able to state it as a fact (Gonsalkorale, Carlisle, & Von Hippel, 2007). The main purpose is to create the uniting fact that confirms one assumption and act according to it.
Stereotyping is divided into two groups – personal and social. Personal stereotypes refer to the attitudes and beliefs of an individual not affected by the groups ideas and, in most of the cases, not shared by others. Social stereotypes are based on the cognitive mechanism that includes perceivers beliefs, attitudes, and expectations about a social group (Macrae et al., 1996). Thus, social stereotyping is a common view of the group of people who are assigned to the group according to their explicit characteristics. The other important aspect is that most of the beliefs about the group are perceived as typical and inseparable. For instance, the idea that women should not play sports is a popular stereotype. Thus, a person having a stereotype is likely to concentrate on women who cannot play sports.
The main purpose of stereotyping is to refer the gathered information to the specific categories and avoid the overload of information (McKay, Davis, & Fanning, 2009). However, the major reason for the formation of social stereotypes is intergroup relationship. People are more likely to agree with the information that is common in the group (Bawazeer, 2015). Belonging to the particular group automatically states some unwritten rules, a kind of a moral code that includes the attitude toward others. Therefore, men as a group tend to share stereotypes about women. Moreover, the development of stereotypes increases dramatically when the threat from outgroup appears. When the threat is directed towards the group of men, it is potentially a turning point for inflaming the intergroup bias (Gonsalkorale et al., 2007).
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The example of the evolution of the social stereotype may be the gender conflict in the workplace. A man and a woman compete for the same promotion position, both are great workers, and they have equal chances. If a man gets the job, the outcome is the belief about the differentiation by the gender characteristics and all the male employees would be perceived as sexists. However, the same situation may appear with reversed outcome, as far as the gender bias exists almost everywhere, so the different outcomes may result in the transformation of the bias into the status of a stereotype.
Jumping to conclusions does not always provide reliable information and form stereotypes. People strive to maintain a positive social identity based on the self-evaluations relying on the group or intergroup relationship (Gonsalkorale et al., 2007). Eventually, the tendency leads to the discrimination or the feelings of superiority but fortunately, not in the majority of cases. Men tend to compare their group to females, and usually, it leads to searching for better sides in the male group and attending to the negative characteristics in a female group.
People are able to generalize the information about the environment based only on the noticeable characteristics (McKay et al., 2009). The treatment may result in the failure of beliefs as long as further examination will probably prove some misevaluations. On the other hand, the failure of beliefs does not always lead to changing the beliefs because the stereotyping is called maladaptive technique (Hargie et al., 1994, p. 44) as long as it is efficient (reduces the information overloading) but not effective (people are stuck to visible peculiarities). However, it is not easy to give up the commonly accepted belief especially, when is shared by all the group members. In the case of stereotyping, the failure of beliefs results in the confirmation that the idea was wrong. It is not easy for people to admit their mistakes. The second problem of perception is overgeneralization that appears from the cognitive capacity limitations. When one lacks the information, he attempts to put the unknown into the most likable category. According to Adler and Proctor (2007), there are two types of fallacy of overgeneralization – based on the lack of evidence and exaggerated shortcomings. Both of them are interconnected with the stereotype formation because the lack of evidence leads to stereotyping and stereotyping results in the exaggerated view of the problem. Overgeneralization leads to the inevitable failure. Thus, men, who generalize women, do not pay attention to the individual achievements of females, but they rather seek the proof of the bias (Hardie, 1994). In most cases, they rely on the facts less than on the feelings.
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Social stereotyping may result in the extreme outcomes such as discrimination. Discrimination implies treatment of the individuals based on their group membership (Macrae et al., 1996). Discrimination usually goes along with the perception of ones group being superior to the others. Thus, the distortion of perception occurs, and largely, it starts with ones realization of the groups belonging because the surrounding is the main influence on the perception formation (Aarts et al., 2005). Moreover, the feeling of superiority in terms of relational comparison to other groups is always based on the self-evaluation and immaturity of facts and evidence. Thus, men believe they are better in some areas and they share the idea that women do not achieve the same results. Discrimination is the effect of the feeling of superiority, and it results in great threat to the other group. Moreover, Gonsalkorale et al. (2005) state that belonging to a social group results in the sharing of stereotypical ideas. Thus, the feeling of superiority over the other groups will probably result in discrimination and nonacceptance. Negative attitude toward outgroup members is formed not directly from the stereotype, but it passes through the prejudice stage (Macrae et al., 1996). Therefore, one has to repress the negative attitude about a group or develop the feeling of superiority tremendously to get to the point of discrimination. The most significant effect of discrimination is that a discriminated group may develop the hatred to the surrounding people and it will result in the disease of the whole community.
The independent variable is the most common stereotypes against females. The dependent variable is the perception of its validity. The independent variable has two levels: high stereotype validity and low stereotype validity.
The first dependent variable is the degree of agreement with the most common female-based stereotypes. The second dependent variable is the gender comparison of the results. The project aims to analyze how women and men perceive female-based stereotypes. The research proposal hypothesizes that men agree with female stereotypes and they can prove their validity with real-life examples. The other working hypothesis is that women tend to disagree with female stereotypes and they can share real-life examples to support their view.
The instructions will be simple. The participants are to fill in the questionnaires and then discuss their ideas in focus groups. The researcher will guide the focus group through administering questions and ice-breaking. The questionnaires will be distributed before focus group discussions to stimulate the idea sharing.
The current project aims to analyze the perceptions towards female-based stereotypes among female and male students. The study hypothesizes that female students are to find the cluster of stereotypes offensive, while male students are to claim that the stereotypes are true.
The participants will be randomly selected among the students of the university. The research will employ 40 participants: 20 female and 20 male students of 20-25 years of age to conduct the study.
The procedures will take place in the next two weeks. The required materials include a tape recorder to record qualitative data in the focus groups and the questionnaire printouts.
Design and Procedures
The participants will be divided into 4 focus groups, each involving 5 participants of the same gender. Each focus group will take 40-60 minutes. The proposed research instruments are valid and reliable, as qualitative data will be carefully recorded and transcribed for the future reference. Moreover, the questionnaire will employ Likert scale, which presents the reliable analysis method to evaluate human perceptions.
Results and Discussion
The research projects to prove that men agree with the most common female stereotypes and they can provide at least one example of each stereotype. In addition, the second hypothesis that women do not agree with female stereotypes and they can provide at least one real-life example to support their position will be proven. The results will follow with the discussion that inter-group and intra-group stereotypes are the real phenomena, which can be proven empirically. The gender-specific stereotypes have two major outcomes. The positive outcome is that they will help to understand the environment and construct a communication pattern with unfamiliar individuals. The negative outcome is that stereotypes can lead to discrimination and inter-group conflict.
The implication of the study adds to the discussion of stereotyping and suggestion of possible methods to eliminate its negative consequences. The study suggests replicating the study with male stereotypes to increase the validity of conclusions. The data collected lacks reliability due to the limited sample size. However, it presents the background for future quantitative studies involving larger population of students.
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