Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Psychological Theories on Simplification - Dictionary of Arguments

Haslam I 232
Simplification/sterotypes/illusory correlation/psychological theories: In the mid-1970s Hamilton and Gifford, two social psychologists (…) hypothesized that negative stereotypes of minorities might also form as a result of people’s tendency to make faulty associations. (Hamilton and Gifford 1976(1)). This line of thingking goes back to the journalist Walter Lippmann [suggested] humans’ information-processing power is limited by virtue of the fact that the social world is far too complex to make sense of in detail.
In his 1922 book Public Opinion(2), Lippmann suggested that in order to avoid information overload, people are forced to summarize and be selective, and to use generalizations to form impressions of groups rather than of individuals – that is, to rely on stereotypes.
In line with arguments by other influential cognitive social psychologists such as Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor, Hamilton and Gifford reasoned that one consequence of this need to simplify the world is that people pay attention only to those things that demand attention.
Haslam I 233
Attention/Gifford/Hamilton: Thesis: things that are most likely to grab attention are the things that stand out or are distinctive, and the most distinctive things of all are not those that are old and common (and that have thus been seen before) but rather those that stand out by virtue of being novel and rare.
Minorities/Gifford/Hamilton:When we think of groups whose members are encountered infrequently, for most people, those are minority groups. And if this is the case, then, as they go about their lives, those people should pay extra attention to minority group members. >Stereotypes/Social Psychology, >Illusory correlation/Gifford/Hamilton.



1. Hamilton, D.L. and Gifford, R.K. (1976) ‘Illusory correlation in intergroup perception: A cognitive basis of stereotypic judgments’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12: 392–407.
2. Lippmann, W. (1922) Public Opinion. New York: Harcourt Brace.



Craig McGarty, „Stereotype Formation. Revisiting Hamilton and Gifford’s illusory correlation studies“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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