Studying the cognitive map of the U.S. states: Ideology and prosperity stereotypes predict interstate prejudice


What are the spontaneous stereotypes that U.S. citizens hold about the U.S. states? We complemented insights from theory-driven approaches to this question with insights from a novel data-driven approach. Based on pile sorting and spatial arrangement similarity ratings for the states, we computed two cognitive maps of the states. Based on ratings for the states on ∼20 candidate dimensions, we interpreted the dimensions that spanned the two maps (Studies 1 and 2). Consistent with the agency/socioeconomic success, conservative-progressive beliefs, and communion (ABC) model of spontaneous stereotypes, these dimensions that participants spontaneously used to rate the states’ similarity included prosperity (A) and ideology (B) stereotypes (states seen as more liberal and atheist were seen as more educated and wealthy). Study 3 showed that states seen as more average on A and B were stereotyped as more likable. Additionally, Study 3 showed that interstate similarity in stereotypic ideology and prosperity mattered, as it predicted interstate prejudice.

Social Psychological and Personality Science, 9, 530-538