Racial Stereotyping Linked To Less Creativity, Greater Chance Of Landing A Top Job: Study

01/11/2013 09:37 am ET

In a recent study out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found that people with an inclination to put certain racial groups into a box (aka stereotyping) tend to have trouble thinking outside of the box themselves.

The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, examined the link between "racial essentialism" (psychologist speak for the view that certain groups of people possess deep-rooted traits and abilities that can't be changed) and creativity.

According to the Association for Psychological Science, study author Carmit Tadmor and her team explored the connection as follows:

The researchers manipulated participants' beliefs about racial essentialism by having them read one of three articles: one that described fictitious scientific research supporting racial essentialist beliefs, one that described fictitious research supporting racial nonessentialist beliefs, or one about the scientific properties of water.

The participants then took a commonly used test of creativity called the Remote Associates Test. The participants were given three distinct words and they had to identify a single target word that linked the three words together. So, for example, given the words "manners," "round," and "tennis," the correct answer would be "table."

What they found -- that those with an essentialist point of view were less creative than their non-stereotyping counterparts, a cause and effect that they liken to being close-minded.

"Although [racial stereotyping and creative stagnation] concern very different outcomes, they both occur when people fixate on existing category information and conventional mindsets," Tadmor and her colleagues write.

While they explore the possibility of using their findings to devise an intervention program to help essentialists become more socially tolerant and creative, another team from Harvard and Northwestern universities say that the line of thinking may do some populations good.

According to their research, which also appears in the journal Psychological Science, hiring managers may be more inclined to fill leadership roles based on racial and gender stereotypes than on a candidates’ actual skills and personality.

Their theory contends that traits associated with masculinity, such as competitiveness and aggression, are also associated more with blacks than with persons of other races. And they're just the thing managers tend to look for when hiring for top jobs, study co-author Adam Galinsky said.

Lauren Rivera, an assistant Professor of Management & Organizations and Sociology at Northwestern University adds that how you fit in culturally (i.e., how much you have in common with those already on staff) may also determine whether you land the job.

Her study, published in the American Sociological Review, concluded that employers' concerns about shared culture often outweighed concerns about productivity, which means that you'll do well to beef up on company culture just as much as what it takes to actually do the job.

"Research the company beforehand, connect with them on social media, and do your homework," Life Hacker's Alan Henry suggests. "Look up what you can about the department you're applying to, or your interviewer personally."

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