What Is The Stereotype Content Model? The Stereotype Content Model In A Nutshell

The stereotype content model was first proposed by social psychologist Susan Fiske together with colleagues Jun Xu, Peter Glick, and Amy Cuddy in 2002. The stereotype content model (SCM) describes the way an individual stereotypes members of a group they do not identify with.

Understanding the stereotype content model

The model is based on an evolutionary predisposition for people to stereotype strangers in a new group in two different ways:

  • The individual first assesses the perceived intent of the group to either help them or harm them. This is measured by the metric warmth.
  • Then, the individual judges the capacity of the group to act on either intention. This is measured by the metric competence.

Depending on how warmth and competence are categorized, the individual will feel a particular way about a group and act accordingly. These actions are the basis of stereotyping, with subsequent research into the model finding it to be a reliable predictor of stereotypical content and its associated behavior.

Studies on warmth and competence in social psychology have also been utilized in fields such as advertising, international relations, persuasion, policy formation, and corporate management

The four quadrants of the stereotype content model

To further develop their model, Cuddy, Fiske, and Glick developed a table to show the different interactions between warmth and competence. The table displays four quadrants, with each based on a causal model of stereotype development.

Primarily, the table was created to show that some stereotypes were positive or contained mixed attributes. For example, some people stereotype the elderly as warm but not competent, while others may consider Asian people to be competent but not warm.

The table has two spectrums:

  • Active/passive spectrum – active behaviors are intentionally directed at the group, while passive behaviors affect the group but do not require noticeable effort.
  • Harm/facilitation spectrum – the second spectrum is included to differentiate between the out-group an individual (or in-group) is in a position to either assist or harm.

In addition, each stereotype group quadrant is assigned two behavioral tendencies. This means common cultural stereotypes determine whether a social group will be on the receiving end of cooperative or harmful behavior, with both received either actively or passively.

Let’s now take a look at each of the four quadrants:

  1. High warmth/high competence – these groups are admired with active facilitation and constitute in-groups, or groups to which the observer personally belongs. Middle class, white, and heterosexual groups fall under this quadrant.
  2. High warmth/low competence – these groups are pitied with passive facilitation. In many Western societies, this treatment is usually directed toward the elderly and disabled. While these groups are pitied from a moral standpoint, they are nonetheless isolated from society. For example, elderly people receive passive harm when they are isolated in a care facility. But they may also receive active facilitation through community service or elderly charities.
  3. Low warmth/high competence – these groups are envied with passive harm because they are generally perceived to lack warmth and possess high competency. In the United States, out-groups include Asian Americans, wealthy Americans, and the Jewish community.
  4. Low warmth/low competence – these groups are treated with contempt through active harm, such as the homeless or unemployed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they are treated with the most hostility of any group.

Key takeaways:

  • The stereotype content model describes the way an individual stereotypes members of a group they do not identify with. It was developed by social psychologist Susan Fiske and colleagues Jun Xu, Peter Glick, and Amy Cuddy in 2002.
  • The stereotype content model measures two dimensions that describe the way an individual will feel (and subsequently act) when encountering a stranger or group. The first dimension is warmth, or the extent to which the individual believes a group can harm them or help them. The second is competence, or the extent to which the group can carry out either intention.
  • The two dimensions of the stereotype content model were later displayed in a table with four quadrants. Each quadrant describes a different stereotype out-group, with each categorized according to whether they will be on the receiving end of harmful or cooperative behavior.

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