Research by scientists at Aberdeen University suggests cultural stereotypes are a consequence of sharing social information through a chain. Scientists say their findings explain why some stereotypes appear to have no obvious origin in reality.
Dr Doug Martin, who leads the university's Person Perception Laboratory, said: "The cultural stereotype of Scottish people, for example, includes attributes that are over-represented among Scots, such as kilts and red hair, but also attributes that seemingly have no basis in reality, such as being miserly or dour. Where a genuine relationship exists between social categories and attributes, people are very good at detecting this, remembering it and passing it on."
Dr Martin's team conducted an experiment where they asked people to remember information about "alien" characters and then to pass it on. As the chain of information grew its structure became simpler and more stereotyped, like Chinese Whispers, he said.