News - G.U. Students Embrace Expanded Learning About Stereotypes

G.U. Students Embrace Expanded Learning About Stereotypes

Carla Morris

There’s no shortage of comparisons for stereotypes . . .

“They’re like credit card debt, easy to acquire but hard to erase.” “They’re like good lies, convincing, but unreliable.” “They’re like acne; we want to mask them when they appear.”

But, for 15 Greenville University students who attended the annual Richey Lecture in Social Psychology at St. Louis University last November, easy “hit and run” one-liners took a distant backseat to solid research about stereotypes followed by compelling dialogue on how they influence judgment and behavior.

“We stayed for the Q&A after the lecture,” said Professor of Psychology Rich Beans ’85. “The students were engaged throughout the time we spent there.”

Conference_atttendees

Lingering Conversation Signals Significant Learning

Insightful conversation filled the shuttle on the way back to campus and carried over into classes the next day. For Beans, the give and take confirmed the value academic conferences have for undergraduates, including freshmen.  

Richey lecturer Monica Biernat, professor of psychology at University of Kansas, dished up plenty of food for thought with a presentation on stereotypes and shifting standards.

Her examples proved both memorable and relatable for G.U. psychology major Will Sunderland ’21. He recalled Biernat’s research involving students applying to graduate school. Nonwhite applicants received better feedback on letters of recommendation than the feedback their white counterparts received, yet more white applicants gained acceptance.

“This can be attributed to the shifting standards and patronization that we consciously or unconsciously enact,” said Sunderland.

A similar workplace dynamic—commendation for minorities that leads nowhere—has fueled the phrase: “praise with no raise.”

Without Thinking . . . Two Little Words

Stereotypes are deceptively subtle, says Tori Papez ’19, like those ushered in with two little words: “for a.”

“[Biernat] talked about how people will use ‘for a’ when describing females or minority groups . . . for example, one may say, ‘She is smart for a girl” instead of ‘She is smart.’ Period.”

At first, the evaluation appears positive, but the lower standard (“for a girl”) qualifies it and injects negativity.

“It reminded me that we are unconsciously bound by prejudice until we make ourselves aware of our own biases,” said Papez.

Her insights echo those of author and essayist Chuck Klosterman on This American Life whose observation strikes a familiar but disturbing chord: “Stereotypes are like rogue elephants with AIDS that have been set on fire by terrorists, except worse. We all hate stereotypes. Seriously, we hate them. Except that we don’t.”

The Benefits of Engaging Undergraduates Early and Often With Experts

DialogueAs a sophomore, Will Sunderland has already attended two Richey lectures, a Midwestern Psychological Association Conference and an ILLOWA conference.

“Those types of experiences opened a whole new world for me as a psychology student,” he says, adding that they strengthen his conviction about his field of study. Veterans of the conference experience, he and Papez shared these insights so their peers might benefit, too.

  • Take advantage of opportunities to hear experts in your field. “Any work that you put in outside of the classroom geared toward your major will only further yourself and your education,” says Sunderland, “so, when it’s offered, take advantage of it!”
  • Be ready to hear different perspectives and learn what professionals in the field are doing.
  • Come prepared to take notes. Later, your notes will jog your memory.
  • Talk about what you learned with your friends. “Explaining it to my friends [afterward] helped me understand the material better and let it sink in more,” says Papez.
  • Jot down questions throughout the lecture, and seize opportunities like Q&A sessions or breakout groups to ask your questions.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask!

Learn More

Forensics Conference Exceeds Expectations
Faculty and Staff Attend “The Voices Conference”
Faculty Assume Lead Roles at Annual Wesleyan Conference
Publish, Publish, Present, Present – Well Equipped Grad Finds His Stride

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This story was published on January 24, 2019




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