Talk: Jacob Stegenga (Cambridge)
The Natural Probability Theory of Stereotypes
A stereotype is a belief or assertion that a group of people tends to have a particular feature. Stereotypes have the form of generic statements, like ‘dogs bark.’ Recent work on generics lends new life to understanding generics as statements involving probabilities. Generics (and thus stereotypes) can take one of several forms involving conditional probabilities, and these probabilities have what I call a naturalness requirement. This is the natural probability theory of stereotypes. Each of the two components of the theory entails a family of fallacies that contributes to the spurious reinforcement of stereotypes: inferential slippage within and between the different generic forms, and inferential slippage from facts about frequencies to beliefs about propensities. Empirical research suggests that we often commit these fallacies. Moreover, this theory can referee a vitriolic debate between some psychologists, who hold that stereotypes are always false and stereotyping is always wrong, and other psychologists, who hold that stereotypes are often accurate and stereotyping is often reasonable.