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In social psychology, self-stereotyping (or autostereotyping) is a process by which an individual integrates and internalizes commonly held characterizations (i.e. stereotypes or prototypes) of an in-group into their self-concept.[1][2] It is described as part of social identity theory (SIT)[1][3] and, more specifically, self-categorization theory (SCT).[4]

According to SIT, group membership is most likely to influence self-concept and self-esteem when the cognitive processes of identification and categorization interact. In other words, when an individual identifies strongly with a group and categorizes him or herself as a member of that group, group membership becomes integrated into the person’s identity.[1][5][6]


Self-stereotyping has also been characterized as an overlap between how a person represents their ingroup and how they represent the self.[2] Prior to self-stereotyping, one experiences depersonalization, the process of shedding one's unique identity to merge it with the group identity of the in-group while simultaneously separating themselves from the out-group.[7][8] Members of low-status groups have been found to be more prone to self-stereotyping than members of high-status groups. Research suggests that members of low-status groups attribute ingroup characteristics to the self via a deduction-to-the-self process. That is, they accept stereotypical characteristics (both positive and negative) of their ingroup as reflective of themselves. Latrofa and colleagues (2012) suggest self-stereotyping increases when low-status groups feel threatened and individuals within the group see more similarities between the group and themselves.[9] Low-status groups' responses to threatening events are influenced by the collective emotion of the group.[10] In contrast, it has been suggested that members of high-status groups tend to project their personal characteristics onto their ingroup using an induction-to-the-ingroup cognitive strategy.[2]

Positive and negative

Self-stereotyping can be characterized as negative and positive. Groups tend to be more accepting of positive stereotypes and ascribe it to themselves and their group, but reject negative stereotypes.[11] However, negative self-stereotyping is sometimes accepted by individuals when it protects the individual from failure and poor judgment being ascribed to the performance of the individual rather than the group.[12]

Implicit and explicit

Self-stereotyping can also occur both implicitly and explicitly.[13] Implicit self-stereotyping is when an individual unconsciously shifts their own beliefs to match that of their social group while explicit self-stereotyping is consciously shifting one’s behavioral traits to match their social group.[13]



Self-stereotyping emerges in early adolescence then decreases in young adulthood.[14] It has been described as a form of depersonalization in which the self is viewed as a categorically interchangeable member of a salient ingroup.[2][15] The growth of one’s social identity can directly relate to a decline in one's personal identity since conforming to group goals influences an individual's beliefs and behaviors.[16]


Self-stereotyping by gender is seen in children as early as five-years-old.[8] Research examining gender-based self-stereotyping has characterized female ingroups as low status and male ingroups as high status. This is because in modern society gender inequality still exists.[17] Women have been shown to self-stereotype more than men, yet self-stereotyping decreases in men when presented with gender equality information.[18][19] Coleman and Hong (2008) have pointed out that when women believe gender differences are attributed to biology differences between men and women, negative self-stereotyping also increases.[20] Furthermore, implicit gender self-categorization has been identified as a key mechanism underlying the tendency of women to self-stereotype.[17][8]


Self-stereotyping is not only limited to social group settings, it can also occur with environmental cues.[21] In other words, when an individual is exposed to something in their environment that is relevant to their low status identity, they may shift their own beliefs or behaviors to fit the low status identity. The effects of environmental factors on self stereotyping among low status groups has been studied in gay men. A study found that being in a gay space, such as a gay bookstore, tended to make gay men identify very strongly with positive traits that are stereotypically gay.[22] This pronounced self stereotyping trend was not found in the studied gay men in neutral spaces or heterosexual men.[22]


Research has shown that individualist cultures engage in more self-stereotyping because they rely more on interpersonal relationships, group cohesion, and in-group ties compared to collectivist cultures.[7]

Group dynamic

Some researchers have found that self-stereotyping is somewhat dependent upon an individual’s belief that he/she and the group are capable of change.[23] If the individual believes that the group's needs are different from their own, they may have to adapt his/her self-representation in order to maintain membership within the in-group. However, if other in-group members are flexible to change, an individual is more likely to maintain his/her self-image and avoid self-stereotyping. Individuals tend to adapt to group characteristics more readily if they see this change as an enhancement to the self. Therefore, the individual's perception of the group influences how much he or she is willing to sacrifice in order to be a member.[23]


An essential aspect of self stereotyping in low status groups is the presence of a clear prototype. A study investigated the effect that self stereotyping had on bisexual people’s self esteem, identity uncertainty, mood, and stress.[24] This study found that self-stereotyping did not cause bisexual individuals to experience the same well-being boosts observed when other individuals in low status groups, including gay and lesbian people, engage in self-stereotyping.[24] These results may be attributed to the fact that bisexuality, due to being neither heterosexual nor homosexual, is an identity that lacks a distinct and clearly defined group; this absence of a clearly defined group means that there is no defined prototype.[24]


Members of low status groups may experience prejudice, discrimination, and stress which may negatively impact their physical health.[7] Self-stereotyping has been linked to affecting the physical and emotional health of low status group members who engage in more negative self-stereotyping. River and Paradez (2014) found that negative self-stereotyping can have a negative effect on the self-esteem of low status individuals, therefore making them more likely to experience obesity.[25]


Social influence

Researchers have explored relationships between self-stereotyping and notable figures in low status groups.[26] Rivera and Benitez (2016) found that when members of low status groups strongly identify with their low status identity and are shown positive examples of role models in their group, they engage in less self-stereotyping.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Forsyth, Donelson (2009). Group dynamics. New York: Wadsworth. pp. 77–78.
  2. ^ a b c d Latrofa, M.; Vaes, J.; Cadinu, M.; Carnaghi, A. (2010). "The cognitive representation of self-stereotyping". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 36 (7): 911–922. doi:10.1177/0146167210373907. PMID 20519574. S2CID 20643385.
  3. ^ Tajfel and Turner (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
  4. ^ Hogg, M. A., & Turner, J. C. (1987). "Intergroup behaviour, self-stereotyping and the salience of social categories". British Journal of Social Psychology. 26 (4): 325–340. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1987.tb00795.x.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Ortiz, Rebecca R.; Thompson, Bailey A. (2019-03-25). "Sorority see, sorority do: How social identity and media engagement relate to in-group stereotyping and self-stereotyping". Psychology of Popular Media Culture. 9 (3): 311–317. doi:10.1037/ppm0000236. ISSN 2160-4142. S2CID 203427740.
  6. ^ van Veelen, Ruth; Otten, Sabine; Hansen, Nina (2013). "Social identification when an in-group identity is unclear: The role of self-anchoring and self-stereotyping: Identification with an unclear in-group". British Journal of Social Psychology. 52 (3): 543–562. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.2012.02110.x. hdl:11370/d110a6be-c387-45a6-9168-2e659192aa1b. PMID 22679907.
  7. ^ a b c Rubin, Mark; Milanov, Milen; Paolini, Stefania (2016). "Uncovering the diverse cultural bases of social identity: Ingroup ties predict self-stereotyping among individualists but not among collectivists: Ingroup ties and self-stereotyping". Asian Journal of Social Psychology. 19 (3): 225–234. doi:10.1111/ajsp.12137. hdl:1959.13/1314011. S2CID 148188762.
  8. ^ a b c Bennett, Mark; Sani, Fabio (2008). "Children's subjective identification with social groups: a self-stereotyping approach". Developmental Science. 11 (1): 69–75. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00642.x. PMID 18171369.
  9. ^ Latrofa, Marcella; Vaes, Jeroen; Cadinu, Mara (2012). "Self-Stereotyping: The Central Role of an Ingroup Threatening Identity". The Journal of Social Psychology. 152 (1): 92–111. doi:10.1080/00224545.2011.565382. hdl:11572/100643. ISSN 0022-4545. PMID 22308763. S2CID 9792549.
  10. ^ Leonard, Diana J.; Moons, Wesley G.; Mackie, Diane M.; Smith, Eliot R. (2011). ""We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore": Anger self-stereotyping and collective action". Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 14 (1): 99–111. doi:10.1177/1368430210373779. ISSN 1368-4302. S2CID 145168713.
  11. ^ Biernat, Monica; Vescio, Theresa K.; Green, Michelle L. (1996). "Selective Self-Stereotyping". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 71: 1194–1209.
  12. ^ Bell, Angela C.; Burkley, Melissa (2014). ""Women Like Me Are Bad at Math": The Psychological Functions of Negative Self-Stereotyping: Negative Self-Stereotyping". Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 8 (12): 708–720. doi:10.1111/spc3.12145.
  13. ^ a b Lun, Janetta; Sinclair, Stacey; Cogburn, Courtney (2009-05-18). "Cultural Stereotypes and the Self: A Closer Examination of Implicit Self-Stereotyping". Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 31 (2): 117–127. doi:10.1080/01973530902880340. ISSN 0197-3533. S2CID 144032052.
  14. ^ Seddig, Daniel (March 2020). "Individual Attitudes toward Deviant Behavior and Perceived Attitudes of Friends: Self-stereotyping and Social Projection in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 49 (3): 664–677. doi:10.1007/s10964-019-01123-x. ISSN 0047-2891. PMID 31529235. S2CID 202672812.
  15. ^ Haslam, S. A. (2001). Psychology in Organizations. London: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0-7619-6157-4.
  16. ^ Whitley, B. E. Jr., Kite, M.E. (2010). The social context of prejudice. The psychology of prejudice and discrimination, Ed. 2, (p. 333). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  17. ^ a b Cadinu, M. S. (2012). "Gender differences in implicit gender self-categorization lead to stronger gender self-stereotyping by women than by men". European Journal of Social Psychology. 42 (5): 546–551. doi:10.1002/ejsp.1881.
  18. ^ Kosakowska-Berezecka, Natasza; Besta, Tomasz; Adamska, Krystyna; Jaśkiewicz, Michał; Jurek, Paweł; Vandello, Joseph A. (2016). "If my masculinity is threatened I won't support gender equality? The role of agentic self-stereotyping in restoration of manhood and perception of gender relations". Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 17 (3): 274–284. doi:10.1037/men0000016. ISSN 1939-151X. S2CID 148279679.
  19. ^ Cadinu, Mara; Latrofa, Marcella; Carnaghi, Andrea (2013). "Comparing Self-stereotyping with In-group-stereotyping and Out-group-stereotyping in Unequal-status Groups: The Case of Gender". Self and Identity. 12 (6): 582–596. doi:10.1080/15298868.2012.712753. ISSN 1529-8868. S2CID 145053003.
  20. ^ Coleman, Jill M.; Hong, Ying-Yi (2008). "Beyond nature and nurture: The influence of lay gender theories on self-stereotyping". Self and Identity. 7 (1): 34–53. doi:10.1080/15298860600980185. ISSN 1529-8868. S2CID 144843925.
  21. ^ Cadinu, Mara; Galdi, Silvia; Maass, Anne (2013). "Chameleonic social identities: Context induces shifts in homosexuals' self-stereotyping and self-categorization: Shifts in self-categorization and self-stereotyping". European Journal of Social Psychology: n/a. doi:10.1002/ejsp.1957.
  22. ^ a b Cadinu, Mara; Galdi, Silvia; Maass, Anne (July 2013). "Chameleonic social identities: Context induces shifts in homosexuals' self-stereotyping and self-categorization". European Journal of Social Psychology. 43 (6): 471–481. doi:10.1002/ejsp.1957. ISSN 0046-2772.
  23. ^ a b Hong, Y.-J. Y.-Y. (2010). "Implicit Theories of the world and Implicit Theories of the Self as Moderators of Self-Stereotyping". Social Cognition. 28 (2): 251–261. doi:10.1521/soco.2010.28.2.251.
  24. ^ a b c Flanders, Corey E (2016-05-27). "Bisexuality, social identity, and well-being: An exploratory study". Sexualities. 19 (5–6): 497–516. doi:10.1177/1363460715609093. ISSN 1363-4607. S2CID 147893929.
  25. ^ Rivera, Luis M.; Paredez, Stefanie M. (2014). "Stereotypes Can "Get Under the Skin": Testing a Self-Stereotyping and Psychological Resource Model of Overweight and Obesity: Self-Stereotyping and Overweight-Obesity". Journal of Social Issues. 70 (2): 226–240. doi:10.1111/josi.12057. PMC 4160906. PMID 25221353.
  26. ^ a b Rivera, Luis M.; Benitez, Sandra (2012). "Revisiting "The Obama Effect": Role Models and Identification Affect Self-Stereotyping". doi:10.1037/e521512014-068. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)