The Effect of Anxiety on the Application of Stereotypes

Research team: Daniel Funston, Peter Furzer, Kerry Kennedy, Shurong Lim, Rachel Thevarajoo, and Emma Stutley

Supervisor: Dr Guy Curtis

Date: 13th June, 2011


This study investigated the impact of anxiety on the use of stereotypes in a social judgment task. The task was a jury decision-making situation where the same case summary concerning an alleged assault was presented to all participants, except that for half of the participants the defendant had a male name (Nick) and for the other half of the participants the defendant had a female name (Nicole). As males are more stereotypically associated with violent crime we anticipated that stereotyping would be evident if the male defendant was rated as more likely to be guilty than the female defendant. In addition, we attempted to elicit anxiety in half of the participants by telling them that they would have to complete a public speaking task at the end of the study. Theories suggest that anxiety should increase the application of stereotypes in a social judgment task, as such, we anticipated that the difference in ratings of likelihood of guilt between the male and female defendant would be larger for anxious than for control-group participants. The attempted manipulation of anxiety was unsuccessful, i.e., the anxiety-induction group were no more anxious than the control group. We attempted a number of analyses, including correlation, regression, and using a median-split of anxiety scores to create high vs. low anxiety groups. However, none of the analyses indicated that anxiety increased the use of stereotypes in in the social judgment (jury decision-making) task.

Ethics approval number HREC: 2010/60