An exploratory investigaton of stereotype categories and content amongst South African university students.
The overall purpose of this study was to uncover, from among a sample of university students, naturally occurring, salient and less potentially harmful group categories and stereotype content. The reason for this was to learn more about which group categories and associated stereotype content ordinary South Africans naturally consider to be salient or important, rather than those group categories and stereotype content that South Africa’s academic establishment may unduly focus on. This was done because of a suspicion, which itself was based on an extensive review of the history of South African stereotype research, that the group categories and associated stereotype content of race and gender may be the subject of an undue focus on the part of South African academia. The results generated by this study were to be used to supply future stereotype threat studies in South Africa with accurate, relevant and specifically less potentially harmful group categorisations and associated stereotype content. The research questions of this study were posed at two hierarchical levels, the ‘higher’, more abstract “groups of people in South Africa” and the ‘lower’, more local, “groups of people on campus”. The reason for this was to learn how the manipulation of hierarchical group salience conditions would affect the group categories generated by the participants and the stereotype contents about those groups. The results of the study suggest that while the category of race seems to be the most salient or important among the participants, the category of gender was not salient at all. This occurred at both the national and campus hierarchical levels. The broad categories of economic status and social class were the second most salient, but only at the national level. There was some evidence of the effects that manipulating hierarchical group salience conditions had on group category and stereotype content generation. Certain group categories and stereotype content were generated exclusively at either the national or campus levels, and when they were generated at both levels, there was evidence to suggest that they were generated in slightly different ways.