Making Sense of Misfortune: Cultural Schemas, Victim Redefinition, and the Perpetuation of Stereotypes

M. B.Fallin Hunzaker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    One of the most striking features of stereotypes is their extreme durability. This study focuses on the role played by cultural schemas and perceptions of low-status others' adversities in stereotype perpetuation. Social psychological theories of legitimacy and justice point to the role of stereotypes as one means through which individuals make sense of others' undeserved misfortunes by redefining the victim. This study connects this work with insights from cognitive cultural sociology to propose that stereotypes act as cultural schemas used to justify others' experiences of adversity. Consistent with this hypothesis, findings from a cultural transmission experiment show that participants include more negative stereotype-consistent content when retelling narratives with undeserved negative outcomes than with positive outcomes. Cognitive cultural sociology and the cultural transmission methodology offer tools for understanding victim redefinition processes, with important implications for the reproduction of stereotype bias and social inequalities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)166-184
    Number of pages19
    JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2014


    • cultural schemas
    • cultural transmission
    • stereotypes

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology


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