When viewing aid advertising portraying people living in poverty it is easy to automatically activate stereotypes. This can be uncomfortable and people may consciously attempt to avoid using those stereotypes. However, it has been shown that suppressing such stereotypes can rebound and lead to greater subsequent negative stereotypic behaviour. Recent research suggests rebound responses differ according to stereotype content (Kennedy & Hill, 2009). The current experiment compared behaviour in those who suppressed use of stereotypes of two dissimilar social outgroups: people living in poverty and people living in wealth. Effects differed; suppressors tended to be more negatively stereotypical when writing about the wealthy and less negatively stereotypical when writing about those in poverty. Behavioural measures (seating) also tended to diverge. Suppression appears to exaggerate later behavior and raises the possibility that viewers of aid advertising who avoid thinking stereotypically may find that their subsequent behaviour is more strongly driven by their stereotypes of people living in poverty than they may have wished, which in some cases can lead to greater negativity and a reduction of support.
New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 2010, 39 (2), pp. 56 - 66