I would like to propose an investigation into how peoples preconceptions of various stereotypes influences their initial impressions of individuals.
I want to do this as I feel that we are all guilty (whether we want to admit it or not) of judging people based on either their looks or what we have been told by other people what to think of them. A group or a type can often be easier to dislike or fear than an individual can be. A lot of the time our opinions of people that we do not know is based on sheer ignorance and our "preconceptions". Some people may make these judgments based on normative influences. This is resulting from an individual accepting information ("all actors are gay") as reliable about the real world. The normative influence actually stems from an individual need to be accepted by others within their social groups. Judgments or preconceptions can not always be measured by physical attributes and are better socially defined judgments based on social acceptability to the group is one way. Which is how this research is structured.
My hypothesis, however, is that, to confirm that people identify with social groups to which they are members. These groups help to give individuals attitudes and preconceptions and the aim of the research is to verify this and then challenge these preconceptions with variants on individual identities.
The methods I would like to use are observation, questionnaires and interviews in order to gain a better understanding as to why people have preconceptions, especially of stereotyped groups. I would like to do use observation and interviews at the same time, part of the observation process would be to gauge reactions, both facial reactions and reactions to questions, also do they pause or hesitate because they do not wish to offend. The experiment would need two people, one to observe the on goings in the room and one to carry out the interview itself.
I would firstly like to do these interviews and research on a variety of different groups of people. I would like various age groups, both males and females, different ethnicities and an array of different educational backgrounds. I would like to compare the results of all the different groups.
The experiment would consist of a control group which would be shown several images of people, all of whom, are associated with various different stereotypical groups. All these images would be accompanied with a description of this person and a questionnaire. The questionnaire would consist of questions like "Is this person socially acceptable?" and "Is this a person you would like/dislike/fear?". An example could be a picture of a vicar who would probably be seen as socially acceptable and a person to whom most people would like, whereas a picture of a N.E.D (non-educated delinquent) the answers would most likely be that this person was not socially acceptable and that the majority of participants would probably dislike this subject matter or possibly even fear them. The point of this part of the experiment is to prove that people do have preconceptions about certain groups without being given much information about the individual themselves, it is easy for a snap judgement to be made.
For the second part of this research the same participants will be used. They will be given the same people from the images used previously but they will be seen in the same context but also with additional information given. For example the picture of the N.E.D (non-educated delinquent) might be of them volunteering in a nursing home in their spare time or the vicar might be covered in tattoos, was a member of a heavy metal band and liked to smoke marijuana frequently. The same questionnaire would be issued alongside these images, to see whether or not this additional information can change what was initially thought of the subject matter. So if firstly if they thought that the vicar was socially acceptable and someone that they would like, now that they knew that the vicar had tattoo's, was in a heavy metal band and liked to frequently smoke marijuana would that change the participants judgments upon this person. My hypothesis concludes that they would definitely change their judgment despite the subject matter being a vicar.
Social representation theorists claim that people understand the world through mental images and a number of concepts which are often enhanced across members of a social group and are one of the things which distinguishes one social group from another.
This research will only highlight existing preconceptions and value judgments it can not be seen as direct correlation of how people may act or react in any given situation. Also showing that identities are not fixed and they are able to be changed and they are often constructed by group narratives.
Another point to take into consideration is that there is a link between personal and social identity. As we see ourselves as individuals of a social group and as such have characteristics of the group. We judge others based on whether or not they have similar traits to ourselves.
This type of research experiment can help designers identify they norms that exist within groups both with a view of challenging these attitudes or assisting how one designs around or to them. Overall this research is essential for us to be able to design for people by understanding the attitudes and norms created by social groups.