Warmth and Competence
What are the two things that are most important to know about a stranger? Or a group of strangers?
Social psychologists know. But so did the early authors of D&D.
The stereotype content model, elaborated by Susan Fiske and other social psychologists, describes how we organize beliefs about other people and social groups—traits and stereotypes. Over the past 20 years, dozens of studies have supported the idea that two key traits, warmth and competence, are major players in our attitudes and behaviors toward other groups.
Warmth is how cooperative the group appears to us. Competence is how strong—how able to do meaningful things—they look. So, jolly halflings might be seen as high in warmth but low in competence. Dour dwarves are the other way around, not very warm but very good at what they do. Kobolds, maybe, are low in both.
When two groups meet in an adventure, the rules of most early forms of D&D have them sizing up each other precisely on these two dimensions….