The Effect of Knowledge about a Group on Perceived Group Variability and Certainty about Stereotype-Based Inferences

AbstractPeople often learn about categories, particularly social categories, based on biased information. Unless people are able to correct for this, they may develop biased beliefs and inferences about these categories. The current research examines if potentially biased information about social groups makes groups appear more homogeneous, and makes people more confident in their inferences about group members. Two sources of biases are considered: due to lacking first-hand experience with a group, or due to having second-hand information from the media or other people. Both sources made groups appear more homogeneous, suggesting that information biases were present and not corrected for. However, only second-hand knowledge led to greater confidence about group members, because, when people lacked first-hand knowledge, their uncertainty about the group average counteracted this effect. This highlights the importance of understanding biases present in people’s information, and corrective processes that may allow people to continue to make unbiased inferences.

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