Multifarious person perception: How social perceivers manage the complexity of intersectional targets

Christopher D. Petsko*, Galen V. Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Stereotyping plays an important role in how we perceive the members of social groups. Yet stereotyping is complicated by the fact that every individual simultaneously belongs to multiple social groups. For example, the stereotypes that are called to mind about a Black individual can vary depending on that person's age, gender, and sexual orientation. This phenomenon—termed intersectional stereotyping—has recently inspired a variety of intriguing research findings. But these research findings pose challenges for prevalent theories of stereotyping. These prevalent theories tend to argue either that (a) perceivers inevitably attend to certain social identities (e.g., gender) when stereotyping intersectional targets, or that (b) perceivers inevitably attend to all detectable social identities at once. In contrast to these perspectives, we argue that perceivers generally attend to just one social identity (or one intersection of identities) at a time when stereotyping intersectional targets, as a function of the social context. For example, gay Black men can be alternately stereotyped as gay people, as Black people, as men, or as gay Black men specifically. The approach described here can account for a diverse array of findings emerging from research on intersectional stereotyping. Moreover, by specifying the factors that render particular identities salient in the minds of social perceivers, this approach offers clear and falsifiable predictions regarding the situated stereotyping of multifaceted individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12518
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Multifarious person perception: How social perceivers manage the complexity of intersectional targets'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this