A stereotype is a mental “shorthand which helps to convey ideas and images quickly and clearly” (Courtney & Whipple, 1983, p. 205). It refers to one group’s generalized and widely accepted perception about the personal attributes of members of another group (Ashmore & Boca, 1981; Dates & Barlow, 1990). Stereotypes serve multiple purposes in a variety of cognitive and motivational processes (Hilton & von Hippel, 1996). They emerge as a way of simplifying the demands on the perceiver (Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Susser, 1994; Bodenhausen, Sheppard, & Kramer, 1994; Macrae, Milne, & Bodenhausen, 1994); or as a way in response to environmental factors, such as different social roles (Eagly, 1995), group conflicts (Robinson, Keltner, Ward, & Ross, 1995), and difference in power (Fiske, 1993); or as a means of justifying the status quo (Jost & Banaji, 1994; Sidanius, 1993), or in response to a need for social identity (Hogg & Abrams, 1988).
In traditional media, gender and racial stereotypes are the most pervasive two. In mass media, compared to female characters, male characters appear more frequently, talk significantly more, and engage in noted behaviors more, such as achieving and showing leadership (Thompson & Zerbinos, 1995). In addition, these media provide distorted representation of women and minorities (Aubrey & Harrison, 2004; Greenberg & Baptista-Fernandez, 1980; Thompson & Zerbinos, 1995). Exposure to these distorted images can have a negative effect on users’ perception of women and minorities (Omi, 1989). For instance, women are usually perceived as subordinate and passive-dependent to men, with sexual relationships as central in life (Cantor, 1987). Racial stereotypes widely exist in mass media as well. For instance, Black men are more likely to be portrayed as criminals (Entman, 1992; Peffley, Shields, & Williams, 1996); Asian men are usually portrayed as culturally ignorant; while Asian women are portrayed as submissive (Park, Gabbadon, & Chernin, 2006).