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Evaluate the Contribution Made by This Level of Analysis to Our Understanding of Human Behavior

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The Sociocultural level of Analysis attempts to focus, not only on individual behaviours but also the social context in which these behaviours occur. When studying this level of analysis it is important to recognize that human beings are social animals and have a fundamental need to belong. This results in many interlinked attitudes and behaviours such as discrimination, conformity and prejudice. A more specific result is that of stereotyping. A stereotype is defined as a social perception of an individual in terms of group membership or physical attributes. Stereotyping is something that all people have in common, but which also causes many of society's problems. Through studying this phenomenon, one can hope to gain a full understanding that will help to tackle the problems that can arise through stereotyping.

In essence, stereotyping is a generalization that is made about a group and then attributed to the members of that group. Stereotypes can be positive or negative, for example, women are talented speakers or women are bad drivers. Stereotyping is a form of social categorization that affects the behavior of those who hold the stereotype and those who are labeled by a stereotype. Stereotyping can have a massive effect on an individual's performance. Stereotype threat occurs when one is in the situation where there is a threat of being judged ore treated stereotypically, or fear doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype. Steele and Aronson (1995) carried out an experiment that aimed to see the effect of stereotype threat on performance. In this experiment, 30 minute verbal tests were given to a group of African Americans and then European Americans. In the test on verbal abilities African American participants scored lower, due to stereotype threat. However, in the test on problem solving their scores rose to meet those of the European Americans. Similar tests in different social groups led the researchers to conclude that stereotype threat can affect the members of any social or cultural group if the members believe in the stereotype. Aronson argues that this could explain why some racial and social groups believe that they are more or less intelligent than others. Believing in these stereotypes can harm the performance of these groups.

According to Steele (1997) stereotype threat turns into spotlight anxiety, which causes emotional distress and pressure that may undermine performance. Students under the stereotype threat often underperform, which naturally limits their education prospects. Spencer et al (1977) tested the effect of stereotype threat on performance. In this experiment, the researchers gave a difficult test to men and women of the same mathematical ability. They predicted that the women under stereotype threat would underperform compared to the men. This prediction was proved true, however, upon taking a literature test they found that both groups performed equally well, because women are not under stereotype threat in this area.

Researchers of the sociocultural level of analysis also aim to discover how stereotypes are formed. Tajfel argues that stereotyping is a natural cognitive process

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