Rivera says there even is evidence that Latinos born in this country tend to have a poorer self-image than many recent Hispanic immigrants suggesting that stereotypes ingrained in U.S. culture are especially potent and that the design of his research reinforces that view.
Aside from ethnicity, the people Rivera studied were nearly identical. They lived in the same neighborhood, had comparable incomes and had similar access to healthy foods, and he asked them the same questions additional evidence that if the whites and the Latinos saw themselves differently, society's prejudice against Latinos was the underlying reason.
So how does a person discouraged by stereotypes overcome them? According to Rivera, research suggests that exposure to positive racial and ethnic role models might help. Something else worth trying, he says, could be designing approaches to weight loss that emphasize the person's positive qualities as a way to counteract the corrosive effects of prejudice.
"It has been shown that when you remind people what they're good at, it works to immunize them from the effect of stereotypes," Rivera says. "It releases their anxieties and allows them to focus on the task before them and perform to their ability."
|Contact: Robert Forman|