Slurs and Stereotypes

University of California, Merced
COGS 180: Slurs and Stereotypes
Spring 2021

Instructor: Adam M. Croom, Ph.D.

Teaching Assistant: Ayme Tomson, Ph.D. student

My Office Hours: By appointment on Zoom

Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30 pm – 5:45 pm, on Zoom

Course Description: Slurs and stereotypes are of great interest to a variety of scholars across the cognitive sciences. For example, slurs are of interest to scholars working in semantics and pragmatics that study the conventional meaning and practical use of slurs in context. Slurs are also of interest to scholars working in sociolinguistics and computational linguistics that study the influence of social factors on the interpretation of slurs and the various uses of slurs on social media. Further, slurs are of interest to scholars working in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience that study the perceived offensiveness of slur-use towards targets and the neural mechanisms involved in the users and targets of slurs. In addition to many interesting questions about slurs in the literature, there are also many interesting questions about stereotypes. For example, stereotypes are of interest to social psychologists and clinical psychologists that study the influence of stereotypes on prejudice and depression. Stereotypes are also of interest to cognitive psychologists and cognitive linguists that study the structure of stereotypes and the relationship between stereotypical attributes and conventionalized semantic content. Further, stereotypes are of interest to educators and social workers that study ways to mitigate bias and harm in classrooms and society at large. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to some of the most important work on slurs and stereotypes from an interdisciplinary cognitive science perspective. In addition to covering a variety of topics about slurs and stereotypes, such as those mentioned above, we will also cover a variety of methodologies for studying slurs and stereotypes, including philosophical methods, experimental methods, corpus-based methods, and computational methods.

Outcomes: Upon completion of this course students will have watched over two dozen original lectures and read over two dozen important articles about slurs and stereotypes from the cognitive science literature. Gaining competency with this literature will help students understand the current state of the field, so that they can evaluate strengths and weaknesses of different views about slurs and stereotypes, formulate new research questions, and develop original ideas for further studying slurs and stereotypes on their own. By reading articles about slurs and stereotypes from different subfields of cognitive science, including linguistics, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience, students will also have improved their ability to evaluate arguments, understand experimental design, collect data, read tables and figures, and interpret results. By completing 15 sets of homework assignments over the course of the semester, students will gain a foundational understanding about slurs and stereotypes as well as practical skills in cognitive science to continue their research.

Required Reading: The readings will be available for you on Canvas.

Assignment Submissions: Submit your assignments by uploading them directly onto Canvas.

Grading Procedures: Your grade for this course will be based on your performance on weekly assignments. Assignments will vary each week and may include multiple choice questions, short essays, and other exercises. Homework assignments will constitute 100% of your grade. Instructions and a grading rubric will be provided for each assignment.

Academic Integrity: Each student must abide by the Academic Honesty Policy at UC Merced. You must do all of your own work on all assignments and copying is never allowed. Violations of academic integrity will result in disciplinary action.

Additional Remarks: This syllabus is tentative and subject to change so stay tuned for updates. If you have any questions or want to talk more about the course, majoring in cognitive science, or your future career, I encourage you to visit me during office hours for a chat. I value your contributions to the course and I look forward to seeing you develop this semester.

Schedule Overview

  • Lecture 1: Jay (2009) The utility and ubiquity of taboo words
  • Lecture 2: Jay & Jay (2015) Taboo word fluency and knowledge of slurs and general pejoratives: Deconstructing the poverty-of-vocabulary myth
  • Lecture 3: Henry, Butler & Brandt (2014) The influence of target group status on the perception of the offensiveness of group-based slurs
  • Lecture 4: Rahman (2012) The N word: It’s history and use in the African American community, part 1
  • Lecture 5: Rahman (2012) The N word: It’s history and use in the African American community, part 2
  • Lecture 6: Glenberg et al. (2009) Gender, emotion, and the embodiment of language comprehension
  • Lecture 7: Cox et al. (2012) Stereotypes, prejudice, and depression: The integrated perspective
  • Lecture 8: Rios et al. (2015) Negative stereotypes cause Christians to underperform in and disidentify with science
  • Lecture 9: Derks, Inzlicht & Kang (2008) The neuroscience of stigma and stereotype threat
  • Lecture 10: Mulvey, Hitti & Killen (2010) The development of stereotyping and exclusion
  • Lecture 11: Levy (2009) Stereotype embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging
  • Lecture 12: Amodio (2014) The neuroscience of prejudice and stereotyping
  • Lecture 13: Boeckmann & Liew (2002) Hate speech: Asian American students’ justice judgments and psychological responses
  • Lecture 14: Cheryan & Bodenhausen (2000) When positive stereotypes threaten intellectual performance: The psychological hazards of “model minority” status
  • Lecture 15: Czopp, Kay & Cheryan (2015) Positive stereotypes are pervasive and powerful
  • Lecture 16: Hedger (2013) Meaning and racial slurs: Derogatory epithets and the semantics/pragmatics interface
  • Lecture 17: Croom (2014) The semantics of racial slurs: A refutation of pure expressivism
  • Lecture 18: Anderson & Lepore (2013) Slurring words
  • Lecture 19: Croom (2015) The semantics of slurs: A refutation of coreferentialism
  • Lecture 20: Rios & Ingraffia (2016) Judging the actions of “whistle-blowers” versus “leakers”: Labels influence perceptions of dissenters who expose group misconduct
  • Lecture 21: Fasoli, Hegarty & Carnaghi (2019) Auditory gaydar and the perception of reclaimed homophobic language
  • Lecture 22: Gaucher, Hunt & Sinclair (2015) Can pejorative terms ever lead to positive social consequences? The case of SlutWalk
  • Lecture 23: Bartlett et al. (2014) Anti-social media, part 1
  • Lecture 24: Bartlett et al. (2014) Anti-social media, part 2
  • Lecture 25: Galinsky et al. (2013) The reappropriation of stigmatizing labels: The reciprocal relationship between power and self-labeling
  • Lecture 26: Whitson et al. (2017) Navigating stigma and group conflict: Group identification as a cause and consequence of self-labeling
  • Lecture 27: Sohn (2019) Countering the “thought we hate” with reappropriation use under trademark law
  • Lecture 28: Holmes, Lopiano & Hall (2019) A review of compensatory strategies to mitigate bias
  • Lecture 29: Maister et al. (2015) Changing bodies changes minds: Owning another body affects social cognition