Wait, what? Assessing stereotype incongruities using the N400 ERP component

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Abstract

Numerous discoveries regarding stereotypes have been uncovered by utilizing techniques and methods developed by cognitive psychologists. The present study continues this tradition by borrowing psychophysiological techniques used for the study of memory and language, and applying them to the study of stereotypes. In this study, participants were primed with either the gender category ‘Women’ or ‘Men’, followed by a word which was either consistent with gender stereotypes (e.g. Women: Nurturing) or inconsistent (e.g. Women: Aggressive). Their task was to indicate whether the words matched or did not match, according to gender stereotypes. Both response times and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded during performance of the task. As predicted, stereotype incongruent word pairs were associated with larger N400 ERP amplitudes and slower response times, relative to congruent word pairs. The potential utility of this approach as an independent measure of stereotypes is discussed.

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