Typecast: A Routine Mental Shortcut Causes Party Stereotyping
52 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 10, 2020
Party stereotyping inflames polarization. What fuels party stereotyping? We explore the extent to which a common mental shortcut — the representativeness heuristic — yields biased mental images of the parties. First, we show that people commit the conjunction fallacy — a logical error associated with representativeness bias — at higher rates when evaluating others with party-representative characteristics. Second, when we inform people how groups compose parties, the least numerate use this information to infer party composition, consistent with the representativeness heuristic. Finally, we show that people’s party stereotypes become more biased when we increase cognitive load, though stereotyping occurs even in relatively “easy” contexts. The representativeness heuristic appears to exacerbate party stereotyping, and the way that media informs people about the relationship between social groups and parties may encourage reliance on representativeness. More broadly, reducing stereotyping requires reckoning with our built-in machinery for simplifying the world around us.
Keywords: stereotypes, polarization, partisanship, politics, political behavior, misperception
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