This paper reviews the varying and contrasting ways in which stereotypes, as representations of groups, and stereotyping as an activity, have been constructed and understood within contemporary social psychology. These distinct theoretical approaches include the dominant social cognitive tradition, which views stereotypes as cognitive schemas that simplify reality, and self-categorization theory, which views stereotypes as psychologically valid representations which reflect the actualities of intergroup relations. We articulate how more social and collective accounts based on social representations theory, ideology and discursive psychology can enrich our understanding of stereotypes and stereotyping. Stereotypes are not the product of individual cognitive activity alone, but are also social and collective products which function ideologically by justifying and legitimizing existing social and power relations within a society. We also discuss recent contributions to the enduring enigma within social psychology regarding the relationship between stereotypes and social reality, and identify the inherent ideological problems which plague positivist attempts to explicate this relationship. Finally, we discuss the need for an integrative social psychological theory of stereotyping which links the cognitive and psychological analyses of stereotyping to more social, structural and discursive analyses.