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Shifting Standards

Definition

Much of people's conversation about others includes descriptions such as “he's very tall” or “she's smart” or “he's really aggressive!” The concept of shifting standards refers to the idea that these descriptions are made with reference to some standard of judgment, and that this standard may shift depending on the person or object being described. How tall is tall? Presumably, standards of tallness—what qualifies as tall versus short—differ depending on whether a man or a woman (or a child) is being described. Similarly, standards for judging intelligence, aggressiveness, or any other attribute may shift or vary for different categories of people. Research on shifting standards has suggested that stereotypes about groups, such as beliefs that men are more aggressive than women or that African Americans ...

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