Stereotype Content Model

Stereotype Content Model

Content analysis of attitudes towards the aged in the society

Research Report Introduction – Part 1: Literature Review

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The section provides an outline of the social psychology theory that will be used in this research. social psychology theory is defined by Graffigna (Promoting Patient Engagement and Participation for Effective Healthcare Reform, 2016) as “the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behaviour in social situations (pg. 150). The Stereotype Content Model of the theory will be used in this research it would be explained and data collected on the same. Stereotype content has systematic principles upon which it is based, mainly following warmth and competence. It assumes that all people fall into these two categories. Warmth means that people do not compete for resources at their disposal within a particular grouping in which they belong while competent, these are economically and intellectually people that are generally considered as successful in the society by their peers. Social Content Model theory was postulated by Susan Fiske and Amy Cuddy.

In defining what the stereotype content model is, Forsyth (2009) observed that people can only be pleasant or not, warm or cold, competent or incompetent. The two sweeping generalizations are warmth and competence whereas the latter refers to good people that are sincere, friendly, and nice. The other type was associated with negative traits, which are bad, unpleasant, and unfriendly. Regarding competence, this definition is associated with being skillful, able, and confident. This results in people being either warm or cold and or competent or incompetent. These characteristics arouse emotions from other people on them that include envy, contempt, pity, and admiration.

According to Mackie and Smith (2002), stereotype content is different from the stereotype process in the fact that there are no perfectly distinguished groups, is not static but changes over time specific for each group. Usually, stereotype refers to a negative connotation associated with a certain distinct group of people. Lately, there has been an addition of positive associations that have been added with the groups rather than only the negative. The addition of positive values is associated with this new model where these stereotypes are based on social structures. Brownell (2005) gave an example of where this mode has been used on people today such as Asian Americans that are said to be high on the competence dimension but low on warmth.

Schaie and Willis (2014) explained that the model places people below in both high in warmth and competence, low in both, or high in one of the two dimensions of either competence or warmth. It is like the case where Asian Americans were described as being high on competence and low on warmth. Close examination of individualistic and collectivistic societies on the basis of these two dimensions indicated that these lines did not divide people but rather their ages. The two found out that older people were more competent. Where there was low competence and warmth, competence tended to decline across the cultures. This was an indication that age is an important factor in the determination of whether people or individuals were described as warm or competent. That age is a significant factor was noted by Farnum and Wiener (How old is old in allegations of age discrimination? The limitations of existing law., 2016) who observed that this stereotype of old people was used by jurors, hence leading to age discrimination rather than fact and law on a specified issue. Schaie & Willis (2014) explained that the reason for this is that they are assumed to be “doddering but dear” which explains why people have this assumption before analysis of evidence presented in a courtroom. The findings sought to confirm this and true expectations, the stereotype content model was confirmed and also they did find that ambivalence was found in the age group as well. This research is based on this analysis of the effect of age on the stereotype content model associated with them.

Research Report Introduction – Part 2: Rationale and Research Question

According to Fiske (2015) The Stereotype Content Model (SCM) was found to generalise across people in the 20th century. Other than time, it was also noted that was based on culture, level of analysis, and measures that involved neural and self-report indicators. There was a need to assess how cultural stereotypes influenced SCM space and the need to know different combinations. Regarding old people, Fiske (2015) observed that older and generally disabled people were seen as incompetent but warm. Rich people were seen as cold and were envied for being competent. Earlier, Fiske and Cuddy (2002) noted that elderly people across cultures were pitied as incapable and useless and therefore competent. Little has changed this time in the perception of generally elderly people as being warm but incompetent. As was noted in the definition of this theory of SCM, there are no static events and these being attitudes, they are bound to change. This research will then assess in these have remained the same over the year regarding old or elderly people and if they changed, the research will try and assess driving factors and assess the current situation on the perception of towards these people.

The research will be based on the extent to which the stereotype content model associated with old people is applicable to people across different cultures. The specific question that will be pursued in this will be:

To what extent do various sources support the Stereotype Content Model’s classification of old people as belonging to ambivalence?

Research Report Method

The research approach that was used in this research is secondary research where data used was not collected by the researcher but borrowed from compiled sources and adapted for this research. Such an approach is faster and cost-effective because there are no direct respondents that are involved in data collection meaning that all usual expenses of travel and engaging primary respondents would be avoided. The reason why this was done was also to utilize already usable data that is fit to solve objectives desired by the researcher.

The research type used can also be described as being either qualitative or quantitative. The latter was preferred for this research because using numbers is faster to feed into spreadsheets of data analysis software from which statistical tools that were appropriate for this research. Qualitative, on the other hand, is tedious to read all statements and apply them to fit the needs of research. Quantitative research was needed in this case due to the need for statistical analysis of how these perceptions have been changing over time with regard to SCM on aged or old people.

Research process

Content analysis was used in this research. According to Schreier (2012), content analysis is used to “systematically describe the meaning of materials”. Krippendorff (2012) defined it as a “research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from texts (other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their use” (pg. 24).  It is a valid scientific research tool whose findings can be replicated and increase understanding of a given phenomenon of interest, which in this case was stereotype content model in relation to perceptions or attitudes towards old people. This means it can be used as a methodology where materials are provided. The steps provided in doing this include finding a research question, finding materials, building a coding frame, and dividing materials into units of coding. Content from online sources was sought to guide in analysis of this experiment. The papers that were researched were those where work or data on the stereotype content model was done in relation to the perception of age. The aim was to assess how these findings have been changing, variations of these changes in various cultures, and general variations of findings.

Content coding

Since the findings were to be presented in figures and analysed using SPSS, there was a need for the results in qualitative format to be coded. Since there are only two dimensions used in this model of social psychology, there can only be either positive or negative on these aspects. Positively identified variables of either warm or competent were coded as 1 while where these values were not found, it was coded as 0. In SPSS, Warm was coded using 1 and 0 where “yes” and “no” were used respectively for each of the dimensions. Ambivalence was not used in this research as it was possible for a person to have both positive and negative traits a the same time. It would not be accurate to represent people as being completely warm or competent. These traits were coded as 1 or 0, meaning present or not but in strict meaning, they imply the overarching traits or perception. It is possible to have a competent and warm person at the same time. Thus, the content is loosely analysed using the presence or absence of warmth and competency in old people. The findings were collected from online websites. To get unbiased results, the keywords that were used were “stereotypes of old people OR aged”. This way, results were neither biased towards positive or negative perception although by its nature, stereotype is associated with negative perceptions as opposed to positive traits. The main theme of either warm and or competent was used to assess how they were perceived.

Research Report Results

Results were presented to assess what the websites thought of the aged people. 20 websites were used that included newspapers, journals, personal websites, and books. On being warm, 78.9% of the content noted that old people were warm and 21.1% perceived them as being cold, unpleasant, and unfriendly.

Paired t-test was used to assess if there was a difference in means between these two independent groups of Warm and competence. If the p-value is less than 0.05, null hypothesis is rejected, meaning that the difference is significant. In the results below, the null hypothesis s not rejected at significance level of 0.05. This means that the means were different in means of both variables.

Research Report Discussion and Conclusion

The report analysed the social psychology theory of the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) where data was collected from various online sources to test the extent to which they supported the perception of being ambivalent. It was confirmed from the findings that different people have different attitudes towards ageing and old people.  All sources did not agree on whether old people were either warm but incompetent or competent but cold; there were mixed attitudes toward these people.  These were existent but not necessarily true, most of the sources aimed to defend and dismantle the attitude that old people are cold and incompetent. While they agreed that some may be incompetent, it was generally exaggerated. The negative stereotype has led to discrimination against old people and due to its pervasiveness, most sources that were sampled sought to dispel this misconception.

Old people were actually found to use their skills and experience better than young people in various tasks. This competence was illustrated in driving where most accidents were attributed to the young. Age was therefore used as a determinant of the attitude of young people towards old people. For example, Schaie & Willis (2014) observed that old people were assumed to be doddering merely because of their age.


Much as the contents presented the views or summary of views on the perception of aged people, it did not allow further content to be used to provide reasons behind these perceptions. The researcher used a literature review to link to these contents to provide background to the sentiments given.


Brownell, K. D. (Ed.). (2005). Weight Bias: Nature, Consequences, and Remedies. New York: Guilford Press.

Fiske, S. T. (2015). Intergroup Biases: A Focus on Stereotype Content. Curr Opin Behav Sc, 3, 45–50.

Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J., & Glick, P. (2002). A Model of (Often Mixed) Stereotype Content: Competence and Warmth Respectively Follow From Perceived Status and Competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902.

Forsyth, D. R. (2009). Group Dynamics. New York: Cengage Learning.

Graffigna, G. (Ed.). (2016). Promoting Patient Engagement and Participation for Effective Healthcare Reform. Hershey: IGI Global.

Krippendorff, K. (2012). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology. London: SAGE.

Mackie, D. M., & Smith, E. R. (Eds.). (2002). From Prejudice to Intergroup Emotions: Differentiated Reactions to Social Groups. New York: Psychology Press.

Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of the Psychology of Aging. New York: Academic Press.

Schreier, M. (2012). Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice. London: SAGE.

Wiener, R., & Farnum, K. (2016). How old is old in allegations of age discrimination? The limitations of existing law. Law Hum Behav, 536-50.

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