The evolution of stereotypes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Stereotypes are template-like cognitive representations whereby membership in a social group is associated with the possession of certain attributes (e.g., scientists are geeky, Scottish people are miserly, women like the color pink). Examining stereotypes from an evolutionary perspective, we present evidence that they are a functional, cognitive, and social adaptation, without which we would be substantially disadvantaged. We suggest that stereotypes have the capacity to influence how cultural information evolves and how changes in the cultural environment have, in turn, influenced the content of stereotypes. Finally, we explore the possibility that the theories and methods of cultural evolution can provide an insight into the origins and evolution of stereotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolutionary Perspectives on Social Psychology
EditorsVirgil Zeigler-Hill, Lisa L M Welling, Todd K Shackelford
Number of pages11
VolumePart V
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-12697-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-12696-8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameEvolutionary Psychology
ISSN (Print)2197-9898


  • stereotypes
  • social cognition
  • person perception
  • cultural evolution


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