Negative Effects of Positive Stereotypes

Asian Americans are often stereotyped as a “model minority,” or as a group that has achieved success in the U.S. (Cheryan & Bodenhausen, 2011). Although this seems laudatory, there are negative consequences of being the recipient of a positive stereotype. First, when positive stereotypes are stated in an intergroup interaction (e.g., “Asians are good at math”), Asian Americans experience negative interpersonal and emotional responses (Siy & Cheryan, 2013). Negative responses are explained by Asian Americans’ sense that they are being depersonalized, or seen as undifferentiated from other members of their group. Further studies revealed that negative responses were most prominent for those with an independent self-construal, who defined the self as separate and distinct from others, and less prominent among those with an interdependent self-construal, who defined the self as similar and connected to others. Second, positive stereotypes can be negative because they cause recipients to believe they are simultaneously being negatively stereotyped (Siy & Cheryan, 2016). Third, positive stereotypes can make high expectations salient and cause people to “choke under pressure” (Cheryan & Bodenhausen, 2000). Although positive stereotypes may seem innocuous or even beneficial, this work demonstrates that they have negative emotional, interpersonal, and educational consequences.


Psychology Today summarized our findings in their article, The pain of positive stereotypes (February 2013)

National Affairs noted our research in their review, Turning up the race card (January 2013)

Authors from our lab published an op-ed in the Psychology Today article, The dark side of positive stereotypes (May 2012)