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August 16 2010 - The experience of being stereotyped has a lasting negative impact according to research from the University of Toronto published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Lead author Michael Inzlicht, associate professor of psychology, explained:

"Past studies have shown that people perform poorly in situations where they feel they are being stereotyped. What we wanted to do was look at what happens afterwards. Are there lingering effects of prejudice? Does being stereotyped have an impact beyond the moment when stereotyping happens?"

The researchers asked participants to perform a task while being stereotyped. They then assessed ongoing impact by measuring factors such as ability to control aggression, eat appropriately, make rational decisions, and concentrate.

Michael Inzlicht commented:

"Even after a person leaves a situation where they faced negative stereotypes, the effects of coping with that situation remain. People are more likely to be aggressive after they've faced prejudice in a given situation. They are more likely to exhibit a lack of self control. They have trouble making good, rational decisions. And they are more likely to over-indulge on unhealthy foods."

Part of the study involved women volunteers completing a math test. One group was told this would determine their aptitude and capability with the implication that women tended not to be good at this subject. The second group was given support and coping strategies to deal with the stress involved. Assessment of the on-going impact showed similar results.

Michael Inzlicht said:

"In these follow-up tests, the women who felt discriminated against ate more than their peers in the control group. They showed more hostility than the control group. And they performed more poorly on tests that measured their cognitive skills."

Similar findings were identified regardless of whether the discrimination was based on gender, age, race or religion.

Michael Inzlicht concluded:

"These lingering effects hurt people in a very real way, leaving them at a disadvantage. Even many steps removed from a prejudicial situation, people are carrying around this baggage that negatively impacts their lives."

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