Susan Fiske: A Psychologist Who Addresses Sexism and Prejudice

Susan Fiske is a psychologist who deals with issues such as sexism and prejudice. She continues to research and write extremely interesting articles. If you want to know more about her life and most relevant theories, read on.
Susan Fiske: A Psychologist Who Addresses Sexism and Prejudice

Last update: 22 April, 2022

Susan Fiske has spent much of her life studying sexism, stereotypes, and prejudice. Her passion for social psychology means we can enjoy a large number of her books and articles on the Internet. In fact, all of them are highly recommended reading and have provoked a great deal of interest.

The reason why we wanted to talk about this influential researcher in the field of social psychology is that her work is still unknown to many people.

To get to know her in-depth, we can’t ignore the environment in which she was born and grew up, as it had a great influence on her subsequent professional career.

Many books

Biography of Susan Fiske

In order to talk about the life and professional career of this psychologist, we based our data on that collected by the academic journal, PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States).

We consider that they’ve put together a fairly complete and interesting compilation which we present below.

Her early years

Susan Fiske was born in 1952 in Chicago (she’s currently 69 years old). Her father was a highly influential psychologist who worked at the University of Chicago. Her mother was an editor, but also an activist leader. As a matter of fact, Susan Fiske’s grandmother and great-grandmother were both strong fighters for women’s rights.

Special mention must also be made of her brother, now an anthropologist working at the University of California. He became an important role model for his sister.

Without a doubt, the whole family had extremely strong values. This meant that Fiske grow up in a really enriching environment. In fact, she herself says that the conversations at the dinner table were always extremely stimulating.

The beginning of her career

Strongly motivated by this stimulating environment, Susan Fiske, at the age of 21, enrolled at Radcliffe College where she earned a BA in Social Relations.

She completed her doctorate at Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude. Indeed, there was little doubt that she’d achieve great success throughout her professional career. Her thesis was entitled Attention and Weight in Person Perception: The Impact of Negative and Extreme Behavior.

After earning her doctorate, she had the opportunity to work as an assistant professor of psychology and social sciences at Carnegie-Mellon University. Nonetheless, she continued to stay in touch with her Ph.D. tutor, Shelley Taylor, further investigating the study of social cognition. In fact, together, they co-authored the book Social Cognition.

Susan Fiske’s ambivalent sexism theory

Susan Fiske worked with Peter Glick on the subject of prejudice. Their investigations went so far that they managed to develop the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI). This tool makes it possible to record and better understand prejudice towards women.

In the ASI, there are two fundamental components. On the one hand, there’s hostile sexism, oriented toward those women who defend their rights. On the other, there’s benevolent sexism, in which paternalistic and overprotective behaviors aimed at women who comply with the traditional image of how they should be and what they should do are recorded.

Woman thinking about closure need test

Stereotype content model

Susan Fiske also addressed the content model of stereotypes. This theory was developed together with Peter Glick and a former student named Amy Cuddy. They argued that people tend to perceive social groups based on warmth and competition.

This model allows us to see how people who belong to the same social group are seen as more friendly (warmth) and competent. However, those who aren’t part of that group, for example, people with limited resources or at risk of social exclusion, aren’t viewed in the same way. They exhibit positive stereotypes toward their own group and negative ones towards others.

Susan Fiske continues to carry out important work today. Furthermore, she’s earned several honorary degrees and has even become an elected member of the American National Academy of Sciences. Although we’ve mentioned two of her theories, we recommend investigating more about this interesting psychologist. Undoubtedly, she’ll continue to make further amazing new contributions to the field of psychology.

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  • Fiske, S. T. (1980). Attention and weight in person perception: The impact of negative and extreme behavior. Journal of personality and Social Psychology38(6), 889.
  • Flavell, J. H., & Miller, P. H. (1998). Social cognition.
  • Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2018). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. In Social Cognition (pp. 116-160). Routledge.