Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Brent Simpson


Research on stereotypes and their consequences often focuses on discrete categorical stereotypes in isolation from each other (e.g. gender or race categories), and rarely centers the fact that people belong to many social categories at once (e.g. gender and race categories). I address this issue using two large factorial experiment (N=1,762 and N=1,481) designed to measure two core aspects of stereotypes, warmth and competence, across the intersections of multiple social categories: Gender, Sexuality, Age, Race/Ethnicity (Chapter 3), and Social Class (Chapter 2). In Chapter 2, I develop a framework for analyzing intersectional complexity in these data, beginning with overall measures of complexity and moving toward narrower and more specific tests. In both studies. warmth stereotypes were complex in the sense that only about a third of intersectional variation came from main effects of the five social categories. Competence stereotypes were less complex, with most variation stemming from main effects. Social Class, when presented, accounted for most variance in competence stereotypes; when not presented, Race/Ethnicity did the same. In Chapter 3 I use both a large factorial survey experiment and secondary data from the American Community Survey and Department of Labor to test a theoretical model integrating several major theories of stereotypes and their social structural causes. Despite the complexity of intersectional stereotypes, the theoretical model nevertheless performs well in explaining intersectional stereotypes of warmth and competence. Other analyses supported predictions regarding multiple standards for status and power for more marginalized people, and provided supporting evidence for the ‘intersectional aggregation hypothesis’ that categorical stereotypes are an ‘average’ of the intersectional stereotypes of people within a social category. The project shows how intersectional perspectives, paired with a methodological framework capable of measuring and analyzing outcomes across hundreds of intersections, can shed new light on how intersecting identities affect how people are seen and uncover commonalities as well as differences between intersectional identities.


© 2023, Nicholas Heiserman

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Sociology Commons