The Princeton Trilogy

The Princeton Trilogy

Study 1: Katz and Braley (1933)

Investigated whether traditional social stereotypes had a cultural basis by asking 100 male students from Princeton University to choose five traits that characterized different ethnic groups (for example Americans, Jews, Japanese, Negroes) from a list of 84 words.

The results showed considerable agreement in stereotypes, especially of negative traits. Eighty-four per cent of the students said that Negroes were superstitious and 79% said that Jews were shrewd.

They were very positive towards their own group (ingroup bias). Since most of the students did not have any personal contact with members of the ethnic groups they had to rate, it was suggested that stereotypes are learned (e.g. through the media or by gatekeepers, i.e. they are cultural products).

princeton trilogy

Study 2: Gilbert (1951)

Replicated the study of Princeton students. This time there was less uniformity of agreement, especially about unfavorable traits, than in the 1933 study. The stereotypes still demonstrated an ingroup bias.

Stereotypes about Japanese were extremely negative and this was explained by the negative press about Japan after Pearl Harbor, so the original hypothesis about stereotypes as cultural products was confirmed.

Many students expressed irritation at being asked to make generalizations at all and this could indicate a social change (e.g. that it was no longer as acceptable to express stereotypes openly).

princeton theory

Study 3: Karlins et al. (1969)

Replicated the study. Many students objected to the task but this time there was greater agreement on the stereotypes assigned to the different groups compared with the 1951 study.

The researchers interpreted this as a re-emergence of social stereotyping but in the direction of a more favorable stereotypical image.

  • When analyzing the Princeton Trilogy it is important to distinguish between knowledge of a stereotype and accepting it.