Societal Images of Diversity: The Shape of What’s to Come

Mon, Feb 3, 2020, 4:30 pm
A71 Simpson
Free and Open to the Public
Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China

With immigration and globalization, people encounter more ethnic diversity than in the past. Human preferences for homophily, homogeneity, and stability seem incompatible with diversity. According to new data, however, we do adapt over time. The psychology of this process is knowable. People cope with diversity, first, by categorizing others into groups and then stereotyping them along two primary dimensions. People consider whether the other is friend or foe, to infer warm intents, and whether the other is able or unable (competent) to enact intent. This Warmth x Competence space appears in 46 nations and over nearly 90 years. Evidence comes from surveys, experiments, neuro-imaging, and natural language processing. Survey data from the US and China illustrate. Globally, people view their own citizens as exemplars of warmth and competence, but refugee migrants as lacking both. Successful entrepreneurial migrants are stereotyped as competent but untrustworthy. Old people are stereotyped as warm but incompetent. In homogeneous, segregated contexts, people express well-differentiated stereotypes of groups they rarely meet in person. Nevertheless, these mental maps tell the hopeful shape of things to come: With diversity, over time, people see most social categories as similar, overlapping, and tolerable. Their wellbeing changes from the diversity dip to a more optimistic intergroup outcome.


Susan T. Fiske is Eugene Higgins Professor, Psychology and Public Affairs, at Princeton University (Harvard University PhD; honorary doctorates: Université catholique de Louvain-la-neuve, Universiteit Leiden, Universität Basel, Universidad de Granada). She investigates social cognition, especially cognitive stereotypes and emotional prejudices, at cultural, interpersonal, and neuro-scientific levels. Author of about 400 publications and winner of numerous scientific awards, she has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Video recording available on YouTube.

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