Glick’s research cited as 2009 “Breakthrough Idea

Carolyn Schultz

The Harvard Business Review recently released its 2009 list of 20 “breakthrough ideas” affecting the field of business. Lawrence Professor of Psychology Peter Glick was cited for his collaborative research on the “stereotype content model,” a model of human behavior based on prejudice and stereotypes.
The article “Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb,” cites the research of Glick and his colleagues Amy Cuddy, associate professor at the Harvard Business School, and Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, on what the article terms the “warmth/competence model,” synonymous with the “stereotype content model.” The model postulates that people rate new acquaintances on imaginary scales of intention and capability, or warmth and competence.
If someone is “warm” they are someone to trust and befriend. Contrastingly, someone who is considered “cold” is untrustworthy and selfish, concerned only with personal gain. People who are “competent” are people to hire for a job; they are intelligent and skilled at what they do. Someone who is “incompetent” is in need of help, an undesirable hire for most businesses.
Stereotypes and prejudices influence these ratings. Glick and his colleagues have found that warmth and competence ratings tend to have an inverse relationship. “If there’s an apparent surplus of one trait, [people] infer a deficit of the other,” wrote Cuddy in the HBR article. For example, the article said the elderly are commonly stereotyped as warm but incompetent. Some people refer to elderly people with terms of endearment such as “honey,” help them with simple tasks, or talk to them loudly. The elderly often find this frustrating, believing they are capable of more than stereotypes project.
A competent but cold person is dangerous and a competitor both in and outside the workplace. This belief leads to resentful and aggressive behavior towards people perceived as competent and cold. An example in today’s world is stereotyping against Asian-Americans, who are seen as smart and driven with adverse motives said the article.
Glick’s part in this research began nearly a decade ago after the research of Susan Fiske identified the two dimensions of stereotypes: warmth and competence. Glick helped identify the beginnings of these stereotypes, and he has tested various hypotheses. He found that competence is related to socioeconomic status and that there is an inherent structure between cooperative versus competitive group relations that is related to the “stereotype content model.”
Professor Glick’s current research deals with applying the “stereotype content model” to how behavior is interpreted. He is researching mixed stereotypes – when competence and warmth are inversely proportioned – and how people can be impaired in some domains and successful in others.
Glick has found that the warmth dimension may predict favorable outcomes for social behaviors. For example, Grandma is nice because she bakes cookies for strangers, but if she fails to notice you on the street, it was because she didn’t see you; she is excused because she is warm. As well, the competence dimension may predict favorable outcomes in achievement behaviors.
“Everybody has stereotyping habits,” said Glick. “The question is whether you correct for stereotypes when you’re perceiving people … the important thing is being aware and being able to not just stereotype.