Research has found that stereotypes evolve in a similar way to languages.

The research, presented at the British Science Festival in Scotland, was carried out by a team at the University of Aberdeen. They found that stereotypes are an “unintended consequence” of information sharing, which evolve as they move between people.

To address the genesis of such stereotypes, Dr Doug Martin and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen’s Person Perception Lab designed an experiment using aliens – an approach previously used to study the origins and evolution of language.

The aliens they invented each had a different colour, shape and set of personality traits; such as arrogance, pushiness or selfishness.

The team then asked a volunteer to learn the characteristics assigned to each one. The information retained by the volunteer was then fed down a communication chain.

What started out as jumbled and complex individual characteristics and traits ended up encompassed in sets of stereotypes.

Character traits became inextricably linked with form and colour – for example, blue aliens might be perceived as arrogant, pushy and untrusting. (Source: BBC News)

The experiment sounds a bit like a game of Chinese Whispers! The researchers will next be looking at if stereotypes can be manipulated.