Naturalistic Observation of Racial, Gender and Social Class Stereotyping in Serving Clients in Public Catering


The bright pages of the history of the 20th century are connected with the words “race”, “gender” and “social class”. Today, these issues remain burning ones and are actively discussed; contemporary science has also turned its attention to them. Race, gender and social class are the aspects of diversity that are in focus of researchers who work in the field of social psychology (Blaine, p.3).

Nowadays investigating this matter is of big significance: studying the issues of gender, race and social class in social psychology provide background for understanding conflicts and discrimination connected with them.

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Considering that social diversity has not only inner impact on a personality (identification), but also on that outer (behavior) (p.17), the subject area of our study is external signs of gender, racial and social class stereotyping in everyday-life setting. The focus of our investigation is manifestations of gender, racial and social class stereotyping in serving clients in public catering: we will observe behavior of waitresses in “Cafe” and analyze it from the perspective of the mentioned aspects of stereotyping.

Literature Review

High research activity is connected with studying racial, gender and social class diversity and its signs (Blaine, p.3). There are a set of questions that remain in the focus of perpetual study, such as the “ratio” of inherent and social influence on racial and gender stereotyping, connection between identity and behavior from the perspective of social diversity, influence of stereotyping on relations et al.

Much attention is paid to studying identity, stereotyping and influence of social diversity on behavior and relations at school. Fries-Britt and Griffin (2007) provide results of qualitative research that revealed difficulty that high-achieving Afro-American students had in disproving negative stereotyping.

Rydell, McConnell and Beilock (2009) found that reminding about negative stereotypes about groups that students belong to decreases their performance, which corroborates that identity influences behavior. Lott (2010) discusses the impact of race, gender and social class diversity on attitudes, relations and behavior. In (Chryssochoou, p.35-41), different social psychological theories of prejudice are systematized: the connection between diversity and behavior is emphasized.

Researchers pay significant attention to choosing groups that would give opportunity to get valuable knowledge on the mentioned issues. For example, in their article, Santon, Meyer-Lindenberg and Deruelle (2010) study such issues as racial and gender stereotyping. The peculiarity of the research is focusing on Williams syndrome children.

One of the main symptoms of the Williams syndrome is mental disability; this influences cognitive, behavioral and emotive processes, which makes the research of particular significance: these processes have important role in forming stereotypes, and in case the corresponding functions are depressed, the research will provide more “ingenuous” results of studying race and gender.

WS children have reduced social fear and tent to contact with individuals who would be considered not approachable by children without intellectual difficulties.

In contrast to the control group of children that showed high pro-Caucasian bias, the WS children group demonstrated no evidence of race bias. At the same time, both groups showed gender bias. The authors make the conclusion that social fear plays significant role in racial stereotyping and is not important for gender stereotyping.

The choice of our field of observation also gives us grounds to expect interesting and valuable research results, which will be discussed in the Methodology chapter.


The method used in the research was unobtrusive naturalistic observation. This method implies that observer does not intervene into the events and thus does not influence them (McBurney & White, p.222).

The research implied observation of behavior of waitresses that supposedly might include certain signs of racial, gender and social class stereotyping. The focus of the research was on the behavior of two female waitresses, age about 20-23 years old. One of the waitresses was Black, and the second one was White.

For observation, “Cafe” was chosen. It is an establishment oriented on clients of lower and lower-middle class income; “Cafe” is the place where waitresses serve clients, but, unlike in middle-class restaurant, clients come to have a fast meal rather than spend much time enjoying food and interior. “Cafe” was chosen for two reasons:

1. Communication between waitresses and clients is more natural and democratic, but implies politeness and hospitality. Results of observation in a high-class restaurant could be more blurred due to establishments’ high requirements to waiters’ courtesy.

2. Waitresses have to serve clients quite quickly; thus, it is possible to expect their demonstration of natural behavior and reactions.

Observation implied using an observation tool in the form of two 3-column tables (Table 1); thus, behavior of two waitresses was fixed in different tables.

Table 1

Observation Tool (Header)



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