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Within social psychology self-stereotyping (or autostereotyping) is a process described as part of social identity theory (SIT) and, more specifically, self-categorization theory (SCT). Self-stereotyping occurs when an individual integrates commonly held characterizations (i.e. stereotypes or prototypes) of an in-group into his or her self-concept.
According to SIT, group membership is most likely to influence self-concept and self-esteem when the cognitive processes of identification and categorization interact. In other words, when an individual identifies strongly with a group and categorizes him or herself as a member of that group, group membership becomes integrated into the person’s identity.
Self-stereotyping has been described as a form of depersonalization in which the self is viewed as a categorically interchangeable member of a salient ingroup. The growth of one’s social identity can directly relate to a decline in one's personal identity since conforming to group goals influences an individual's beliefs and behaviors.
Self-stereotyping has also been characterized as an overlap between how a person represents their ingroup and how they represent the self. Members of low-status groups have been found to be more prone to self-stereotyping than members of high-status groups. Research suggests that members of low-status groups attribute ingroup characteristics to the self via a deduction-to-the-self process. That is, they accept stereotypical characteristics (both positive and negative) of their ingroup as reflective of themselves. In contrast, it has been suggested that members of high-status groups tend to project their personal characteristics onto their ingroup using an induction-to-the-ingroup cognitive strategy.
Research examining gender-based self-stereotyping has characterized female ingroups as low status and male ingroups as high status. This is because in modern society gender inequality still exists. Women have been show to self-stereotype more than men. Furthermore, implicit gender self-categorization has been identified as a key mechanism underlying the tendency of women to self-stereotype.
Some researchers have found that self-stereotyping is somewhat dependent upon an individual’s belief that he/she and the group are capable of change. If the individual believes that the groups needs are different from their own, they may have to adapt his/her self-representation in order to maintain membership within the in-group. However, if other in-group members are flexible to change, an individual is more likely to maintain his/her self-image and avoid self-stereotyping. Individuals tend to adapt to group characteristics more readily if they see this change as an enhancement to the self. Therefore, the individual's perception of the group influences how much he or she is willing to sacrifice in order to be a member.
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