Mutual Status Stereotypes Maintain Inequality

  • Susan T. FiskeEmail author
  • Federica Durante


Status and power stratification seem virtually inevitable in human societies. The advantages of the powerful and higher status are exaggerated by inequality, increasing cross-class resentment. Across nations, high-SES people are stereotyped as competent but cold and low-SES people as incompetent (and sometimes as warm). So, upper classes feel disliked and lower classes feel disrespected. These societal stereotypes provide a rational account for inequality, a convenient target of resentment, and a strategy to maintain unequal systems. Additionally, more unequal societies use more mixed, ambivalent stereotype: Stereotypes of deserving and undeserving poor or deserving and undeserving rich disguise or at least complicate the blunt facts of unequal advantage. These mixed stereotypes operate in both directions, up and down the hierarchy (they are mutual), thus affecting cross-class interpersonal interactions. Reconciliation is possible but requires structural changes. Awareness of inequality and changes in ideologies supporting inequality (i.e., meritocracy) may also help the process. But all social classes have a role to play.


Social class Stereotypes Warmth Competence Resentment High SES Low SES Inequality Cross-class interaction 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.University of MilanoBicoccaItaly

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