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A comparison of the stereotypes that police and members of non-governmental organisations have of missing people

Morris, Lindsey (2010) A comparison of the stereotypes that police and members of non-governmental organisations have of missing people. University of Bath.

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Abstract

Schema theories predict that stereotypes are influenced by experience. There is currently a lack of research to support this. The study aimed to examine and compare the stereotypes of missing people held by two groups, police and members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who have different experiences with missing persons. The study also investigated whether police have a ‘streetwise’ stereotype of children who repeatedly go missing, as hypothesized by Newiss (2003). Fifty seven police and 22 NGO participants completed an ‘attribute rating’ questionnaire, which measured the strength of attributes contained in missing person stereotypes. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to compare the police’s and members of NGOs’ stereotypes. ‘Streetwise’ was found to be part of the police stereotype of children that repeatedly go missing, and a significant difference was identified between the content of police and members of NGOs’ stereotypes. The study provides support for Newiss’ (2003) previously untested hypothesis. Although the study is unable to confirm schema theories’ hypothesis that experience influences stereotypes, as the direction of the relationship may be vice versa; it indicates a relationship between experience and stereotypes and succeeds in exploring the under-researched area of stereotype development. Future research should begin to challenge any negative stereotypes of missing people. It should also examine whether encouraging certain experiences, for example, through the provision of resources to allow police to conduct return interviews with missing people, can develop more useful stereotypes.

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