Through the looking glass: A lens-based account of intersectional stereotyping.

Christopher D. Petsko*, Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, Galen V. Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A growing body of scholarship documents the intersectional nature of social stereotyping, with stereotype content being shaped by a target person’s multiple social identities. However, conflicting findings in this literature highlight the need for a broader theoretical integration. For example, although there are contexts in which perceivers stereotype gay Black men and heterosexual Black men in very different ways, so too are there contexts in which perceivers stereotype these men in very similar ways. We develop and test an explanation for contradictory findings of this sort. In particular, we argue that perceivers have a repertoire of lenses in their minds—identity-specific schemas for categorizing others—and that characteristics of the perceiver and the social context determine which one of these lenses will be used to organize social perception. Perceivers who are using the lens of race, for example, are expected to attend to targets’ racial identities so strongly that they barely attend, in these moments, to targets’ other identities (e.g., their sexual orientations). Across six experiments, we show (a) that perceivers tend to use just one lens at a time when thinking about others, (b) that the lenses perceivers use can be singular and simplistic (e.g., the lens of gender by itself) or intersectional and complex (e.g., a race-by-gender lens, specifically), and (c) that different lenses can prescribe categorically distinct sets of stereotypes that perceivers use as frameworks for thinking about others. This lens-based account can resolve apparent contradictions in the literature on intersectional stereotyping, and it can likewise be used to generate novel hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Intergroup relations
  • Intersectionality
  • Person perception
  • Social categorization
  • Stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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