Perceptions of warmth and competence drive our stereotypes: Cuddy et al. (2008)

This post deals with bias and prejudice. I first highlight a recent Guardian article, after which I outline recent academic research related to the dynamics of bias and prejudice.

An Aug. 16, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “The dark history of Donald Trump’s rightwing revolt.”

The subhead reads: “The Republican intellectual establishment is united against Trump – but his message of cultural and racial resentment has deep roots in the American right.”

An excerpt reads:

“The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World was the most unlikely bestseller of 1941. The author, James Burnham, was a philosophy professor at New York University who until the previous year had been one of Leon Trotsky’s most trusted counsellors in the US. Time called Burnham’s work a grim outline of ‘the totalitarian world soon to come’ that was ‘as morbidly fascinating as a textbook vivisection’.

“The son of a wealthy railway executive, Burnham graduated near the top of his class in Princeton in 1927 before studying at Oxford and then securing his post at NYU. But the Great Depression radicalised him, and he began a double life, lecturing on Aquinas by day and polemicising against capital by night. By 1940, Burnham had lost his faith in the revolution of the proletariat. While Trotsky denounced his erstwhile disciple as an ‘educated witch doctor’, Burnham started work on the book that would justify his apostasy.”

[End of excerpt]

The Age of Selfishness (2015)

The above-noted Aug. 16, 2016 Guardian article brings to mind a graphic storytelling book, available at the Toronto Public Library, entitled: The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis (2015)

A blurb for the book at the Toronto Public Library website notes:

“Tracing the emergence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism in the 1940s to her present-day influence, Darryl Cunningham’s latest work of graphic-nonfiction investigation leads readers to the heart of the global financial crisis of 2008. Cunningham uses Rand’s biography to illuminate the policies that led to the economic crash in the U.S. and in Europe, and how her philosophy continues to affect today’s politics and policies, starting with her most noted disciple, economist Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve). Cunningham also shows how right-wing conservatives, libertarians, and the Tea Party movement have co-opted Rand’s teachings (and inherent contradictions) to promote personal gain and profit at the expense of the middle class. Tackling the complexities of economics by distilling them down to a series of concepts accessible to all age groups, Cunningham ultimately delivers a devastating analysis of our current economic world.”

[End of text]

A previous post highlighting related topics is entitled:

Masters of the Universe (2012) focuses upon the analysis of neoliberalism, from the perspective of historical research

Social construction of stereotypes, biases, and prejudices

The Aug. 16, 2016 Guardian article also brings to mind a research paper by Cuddy et al. (2008) about the dynamics of stereotyping.

I learned about the Cuddy et al. paper when I read a @converationage tweet on July 20, 2016.

The tweet provided a link to an April 2016 article at entitled: “How we See Others Drives the Value of our Self-Perception [the approach to capitalization is from the original].”

The above-noted article is based on a paper, published in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 40 (2008), entitled: Warmth and Competence as Universal Dimensions of Social Perception: The Stereotype Content Model and the BIAS Map by Amy J. C. Cuddy, Susan T. Fiske, and Peter Glick.

The image is from the April 2016 article at that is referred to in the post you are now reading. The image is derived from the Cuddy et al. (2008) article which is also discussed at the post you are now reading.

The image – you can enlarge it by clicking on it – is from the April 2016 article at that is referred to in the post you are now reading. The image is derived from the Cuddy et al. (2008) article which is also discussed at the post you are now reading.

I’ve made some notes from the Conversation Agent overview of the Cuddy et al. (2008) paper.

Pity, admiration, contempt, and envy

The paper concerns four ways of seeing others:

Pity: (in response to a person or group seen as warm and incompetent; pity gives rise to a  desire to help, among other things)

Admiration: (in response to a person of group seen as warm and competent; admiration gives rise to facilitation, among other things)

Contempt: (in response to a person or groups seen as cold and incompetent; contempt gives rise to a desire to attack, among other things)

Envy: (in response to a person seen as cold and competent; envy gives rise to passive resentment, among other things)

The paper, the April 2016 article notes, “presents a framework that synthesizes how individuals and groups perceive a combination of these traits to determine status as they decide whether to collaborate or compete with someone.”

Warmth and competence

Warmth and competence, the article adds, help people to answer two critical questions:

1) What are another person’s intentions?
2) Can they make good on these intentions?

The characteristics of warmth include traits such as:

Morality, trustworthiness, sincerity, kindness, friendliness

The characteristics of competence include:

Efficacy, skill, creativity, confidence, intelligence

The schema, it is noted in the article, permits a disaggregation of the notion of prejudice, and goes beyond an us versus them formulation. The paper, as I understand, refers to prejudice as the emotional component, in the underlying processes, and discrimination as the behavioural component.

According to this formulation, the warmth dimension is primary, given its perceived link to others’ intentions. Perceived warmth predicts active behaviours. Groups seen as warm give rise to active facilitation (that is, help). Groups seen as lacking warmth give rise to attack.

According to the formulation, the competence dimension is secondary; in this case the perceived link is to others’ capability to carry out intentions. This dimension is positioned, in the formulation, as giving rise to passive behaviours. That is: “groups judged as competent elicit passive facilitation (i.e. obligatory association, convenient cooperation), whereas those judged as lacking competence elicit passive harm (i.e. neglect, ignoring),

“In short, distinct types of discrimination follow each warmth-by-competence combination.”

Presence (2015) by Amy Joy Casselberry Cuddy

The Cuddy et al. (2008) paper is worth a close read.

Amy Cuddy is also the author of a recent book available at the Toronto Public Library entitled: Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (2015).

A blurb for the book at the the Toronto Public Library website reads:

“Harvard psychologist and TED star Amy Cuddy reveals how to unleash your boldest self to heighten your confidence, influence others, and perform at your peak. Filled with stories of people facing challenges from job interviews to asking someone out; scientific research on how our bodies change our minds; and strategies like power posing, ‘Presence’ is a must-read for anyone yearning to project their true power.”

[End of text]

How do we change stereotypes?

I am encouraged and inspired by efforts to counter stereotypes. I am also aware of the challenges that we face, in this regard.

The Cuddy et al. (2008) paper brings to mind a July 20, 2016 article at, entitled “There’s Probably Nothing That Will Change Clinton Or Trump Supporters’ Minds,” which highlights the challenges that we face, when we seek to adopt an evidence-based approach toward matters of public interest.

The article notes that corrections of a politician’s misrepresentations (that is, lies) can actually strengthen people’s belief in the misperceptions, as a consequence of a “backfire effect.” The article refers, in this context, to a paper whose publication in Political Behavior is forthcoming, entitled: When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler.


A Feb. 18, 2014 article at a London School of Economics Policy & Politics website is entitled: “Money makes people right-wing and inegalitarian.”

An Aug. 30, 2016 Tyee article is entitled: “Think Trump’s Impossible? I Have Two Words for You: ‘Rob Ford.’”

A Sept. 2, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “It’s immigration, stupid: The irresistible politics of keeping people out: Trump, May, Sarkozy ramp up their anti-outsider rhetoric.”

A Sept. 3, 2016 New York article is entitled: “The Revenge of Roger’s Angels: How Fox News women took down the most powerful, and predatory, man in media.”

The article highlights “how key wedge issues — race, religion, class — could turn conservative voters into loyal viewers.”

A Sept. 2, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “New Zealand warned against ‘overt racism’ of Australia and other nations: ‘I don’t want New Zealand to follow behaviour in other parts of the world where hate speak is becoming normalised,’ says race relations commissioner.”

A Sept. 2, 2016 Atlantic article is entitled: “A Farewell Guide to Political Journalism: Lessons gleaned from 30 years of covering American politics – from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump.”

A Nov. 12, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “How to talk to strangers: a guide to bridging what divides us: The more we do to interact with people who aren’t like us, the better off we’ll be in the face of hatred that has become so visible thanks to Donald Trump.”

In a Nov. 15, 2015 tweet, Amy Cuddy writes: “An outstanding review of the efficacy of diversity trainings, from 178 papers, including practical recommendations.”: Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2012, Vol. 11, No. 2, 207–227. Reviewing Diversity Training: Where We Have Been and Where We Should Go

Also of interest and relevance: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016)

As well: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016)

A May 25, 2016 Guardian longread article is entitled: “The enduring whiteness of the American media: What three decades in journalism has taught me about the persistence of racism in the US.”

A Feb. 14, 2017 Science of Us article is entitled: “Rich People Literally See the World Differently.”

An April 18, 2016 Slate article is entitled: “From Theater to Therapy to Twitter, the Eerie History of Gaslighting.”

A Jan. 22, 2017 Psychology Today article is entitled: “Gaslighting: Know It and Identify It to Protect Yourself: Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used to gain power. And it works too well.”

A March 16, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “How to survive gaslighting: when manipulation erases your reality: Ariel Leve offers strategies to stay resilient in the face of psychological abuse that distorts the truth – much like what’s coming from Trump’s administration.”

A March 7, 2017 Science of Us article is entitled: “Here Is an Interesting Way to Measure How People Dehumanize Other Groups.”

A March 13, 2017 CityLab article is entitled: “Mapping the Achievement Gap: A colorful dot map reveals the stark differences in educational levels across urban and rural areas—as well as the effects of racial segregation within cities.”

A May 2008  (Vol. 56(3): 371–379) Current Sociology article is entitled: “Globalization, Degradation and the Dynamics of Humiliation.”

An April 20, 2017 Institute for New Economic Thinking article is entitled: “America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People: A new book by economist Peter Temin finds that the U.S. is no longer one country, but dividing into two separate economic and political worlds.”

A June 27, 2017 Harvard Gazette article is entitled: “Inequality’s influence: Study shows that exposure to inequality reduces support for ‘millionaire’s tax’.”


A March 27, 2017 Atlantic article is entitled: “How Right-Wing Media Saved Obamacare: Years of misleading coverage left viewers so misinformed that many were shocked when confronted with the actual costs of repeal.”


6 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Graeme Decarie, Aug. 6, 2016, Moncton, NB.

    Graeme Decarie, whose blog is at The Decarie Report, comments:

    “I’ve just been writing on the American election. It doesn’t matter who wins. The politicians don’t matter, and haven’t mattered for decades. What the U.S. has and what we pretty much have are governments by a new hereditary aristocracy of billionaires. Clinton has built a career on being their servant.”

    The Aug. 6, 2016 photo of Graeme (on the left) is from a recent post entitled: Graeme Decarie keeps busy researching and writing his daily blog posts

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    The resources referred to at this post, which I learned about primarily through Twitter, have had a strong impact on my recent thinking about many things. They have served to broaden my understanding – in a manner that is significant, and meaningful.

    The topics addressed in Cuddy et al. (2008) may warrant expansion in a separate, future post.

    The work of Erving Goffman, Ellen Langer, and Marjorie Harness Goodwin comes to mind at once, with regard to such a post. Goffman’s research regarding stigma, frames and framing, and total organizations delineates how stereotypes give rise to behaviours, associated with stereotyping, that Cuddy et al. (2008) highlight.

    Langer addresses the role that mindfulness, as defined in this case by Langer, can serve to address stereotypical thinking associated with aging. Through the study of the linguistic anthropology of behaviours such as schoolyard bullying, Goodwin addresses the second-by-second, interactive enactment of behaviours associated with stereotyping.

    Image of the child

    One can also discuss the implications of the Reggio Emilia concept of the “image of the child” as it relates to strategies that seek to counter stereotypes related to childhood. Related areas that can be discussed include military history including the history of the British empire driven as it was by class and status, and the history of First Nations peoples.


    Strategies to counter the myths and stereotypes related to disability come to mind as well, as do strategies aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of public education efforts in this area. As a volunteer I have been involved for over twenty years in public education efforts in the latter area.

    So many news stories related to disability come to mind. By way of example, an Aug. 20. 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Jobless, car-less and afraid to call for help: epilepsy patients say police screwed up arrests: Should people suffering from seizures and their aftermath be held criminally responsible for prohibited acts?”

    An excerpt from the article notes: “Epilepsy affects approximately one in 100 Canadians and is typically diagnosed when a person has had two or more seizures.”


    An additional topic concerns the question of what neuroscience research of the kind cited by Cuddy et al. (2008) can, and cannot, tell us about the dynamics of stereotyping.

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    By way of an update on topics related to bias, prejudice, and stereotypes, an Aug. 19, 2016 Wired article is entitled: “With Manafort Out, Trump Begins New (and Scary) Chapter.”

    An excerpt reads:

    “The conservative public, in other words, has come to trust conservative media as fair and balanced, whether or not its writers and and editors even mean to be fair and balanced. ‘What’s taken to be mainstream media is, by definition for conservatives, liberally biased,’ Lichter says. ‘Therefore conservatives tell you the truth that the biased liberal media won’t.’

    “This misunderstanding can be dangerous when it’s used to prop up a certain political viewpoint. But it’s more dangerous, propaganda researchers say, when it’s used to prop up individuals. And that, says Jason Stanley, a Yale professor and author of the book How Propaganda Works, is the problem with Bannon’s move to Breitbart.”

    [End of excerpt]

    An Aug. 20, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Steve Bannon: the Machiavellian ‘bully’ who made Breitbart into ‘Trump Pravda'”.

    Extremely violent societies

    The articles brings to mind previous posts including:

    Narrative helps us understand Germany in the 1930s (Richard J. Evans, 2003)

    Christian Gerlach’s 2010 genocide-related study focuses on extremely violent societies

    Germany in the 1930s

    Of related interest is Berlin Alexanderplatz: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture (2009), a study of 1930s Germany.

    The book establishes a context for Steven Heller’s Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State (2008).

    Topics addressed in the latter study are also highlighted in a December 23, 2009 New York Times article entitled Deadly Style: Bauhaus’s Nazi Connection.

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    A related topic concerns efforts to change attitudes about a given topic, and the challenge of measuring changes in attitudes.

    By way of example, an April 7, 2016 FiveThirtyEight article is entitled: “How Two Grad Students Uncovered An Apparent Fraud – And A Way To Change Opinions On Transgender Rights.”

  5. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    An Oct. 18, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Racial identity is a biological nonsense, says Reith lecturer: Philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah says race and nationality are social inventions being used to cause deadly divisions.”

  6. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Also of relevance is a book I learned about from a New York Times article, namely Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017).


    How American race law provided a blueprint for Nazi Germany

    Nazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Did the American regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The unsettling answer is yes. In Hitler’s American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. Contrary to those who have insisted that there was no meaningful connection between American and German racial repression, Whitman demonstrates that the Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in American race policies.

    As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws–the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.

    Indelibly linking American race laws to the shaping of Nazi policies in Germany, Hitler’s American Model upends understandings of America’s influence on racist practices in the wider world.


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