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Ingroup Experts and Peers as Social Vaccines Who Inoculate the Self-Concept: The Stereotype Inoculation Model

Individuals’ choice to pursue one academic or professional path over another may feel like a free choice but is often constrained by subtle cues in achievement environments that signal who naturally belongs there and who does not. People gravitate toward achievement domains that feel like a comfortable fit because they are in sync with ingroup stereotypes and away from other domains that feel like an uncomfortable fit because they deviate too far from ingroup stereotypes. Even individuals who are high performers may lack confidence in their ability and withdraw from certain achievement domains—performance and self-efficacy do not always go hand in hand. What factors might release these constraints and enhance individuals’ freedom to pursue academic and professional paths despite stereotypes to the contrary The present article addresses this question using a new theoretical lens —the stereotype inoculation model—that reveals how ingroup members (experts and peers in high- achievement settings) function as “social vaccines” who increase social belonging and inoculate fellow group members’ self-concept against stereotypes. The model integrates insights from several literatures in social psychology and organizational behavior to articulate predictions accompanied by supporting evidence about when ingroup experts and peers serve as social vaccines and the underlying psychological mechanisms. The article concludes by identifying directions for future research, possible interventions, and policy implications of the model.

Credit: Nilanjana Dasgupta

Date: 2011