Stereotyping. Good or Bad ?
It is clear my insight is not needed, to know just how serious stereotypes can be when used in a negative light. The town of Ferguson is still reeling over the Grand Jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson for the unarmed shooting of 18 year old, Michael Brown. It’s obvious by the news that has transpired over the recent months, that stereotypes are alive and well. Our young, black men have been stereotyped and will continue to be, as long as people continue to close their eyes to the injustices occurring in our judicial system.
Stereotypes are part of sweeping generalizations one makes about groups or people based on gender, age, class, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. One may see using certain familiar ways of thinking about a group as mental shortcuts to information one needs to access quickly and see it as beneficial. On the other hand, stereotypes often portray groups in a negative light and inhibit viewing people as individuals or having their own identity. McLeod (2008) states that we use stereotyping when we meet new people as a way of reducing the amount of mental processing. This student is not certain this theory holds true for all but pragmatically speaking it may be truer than not.
Looking further into the question, is it possible to avoid stereotypes? Perhaps if one has a clear frame of mind and goes into every situation as new, but the mental effort this would require may not be possible and quite frankly may even be dangerous on certain levels. It would be like walking into a situation as a naive young person who has no life experience, every time one encounters something new. Our learned experiences are accumulated for a reason. However, finding a way to limit stereotyping may be useful, although not all stereotyping is bad or related to discrimination.
Different Kinds of Stereotypes
Stereotyping can occur through gender, otherwise known as sexism. An example is not being able to view females in certain male-dominated positions in the workforce, i.e. firefighters, or construction workers. Stereotyping can occur through ageism at work by not allowing people of a certain age to be promoted or hired because their abilities are in question.
Media coverage may project culture differences, highlighting news and stories regarding terrorism and cause people to have preconceived notions about certain races. All of these situations can potentially lead to loss of opportunities, narrow-mindedness, and unfortunately, promote feelings of isolation in certain groups.
Stereotypes Related to Prejudice and Discrimination
Prejudice is a negative feeling one has towards the attitude object, or outgroup members (Fiske, 2014). When stereotyping is used to put particular group memberships at a disadvantage, this is called discrimination. Discrimination is acting on these negative feelings. By having stereotypes or preconceived notions about a particular group that is not followed up by any real interaction or experience with the group, these stereotypes can lead to prejudice, which may eventually turn into discrimination. Most of these concepts seem to be perpetuated by ignorance and not having exposure to certain groups or lack of education (Fiske, 2014).
Prejudice views regarding outgroups can also be passed down through family and influenced through society. An example of a negative stereotype is “All Asians are bad drivers”, an example of a positive stereotype is, “Hispanic communities are very family-oriented. “ Negative or positive, they are stereotypes and should be avoided.
Ways to Mitigate Stereotypes
One way to avoid stereotypes is by opening up your friend circle and interacting with different social groups. Crisp & Turner (2010) refer to this as contact hypothesis and can be very beneficial in negating intergroup bias. Be mindful and get to know an individual based on who they are as a person, not who they are as part of a larger group. A strengthening component to contact hypothesis is self-disclosure or the sharing of personal information. Self-disclosure as part of the process aids in cross-group friendship. Although this kind of mitigation can be helpful, one of the limitations is one may not be in an area that allows for these social contacts to be made demographically (Crisp & Turner, 2010).
Another way to mitigate is through indirect contact if availability to the outgroup is limited. The concept of other people within your group having outgroup friendships may also be helpful as an extended contact. This knowledge can help reduce intergroup anxiety. One can even use mental simulation called imagined contact that would further enhance positive reinforcement of intergroup contact (Crisp & Turner, 2010). Keeping an open mind is always advantageous, hopefully resulting in a constructive result.
There are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the Michael Brown case. There is no doubt that the anger from this is not going away any time soon. People are enraged and change needs to happen one way or another.
Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2010). Essential social psychology (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
ehow.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from Avoiding Stereotypes: http://www.ehow.com/how_2074997_avoid-stereotypes.html
Fiske, S. T. (2014). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology. (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
McLeod, S. A. (2008). Stereotypes. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/katz-braly.html
(n.d.). Retrieved from Understanding Prejudice: http://www.understandingprejudice.org/apa/english/page2.htm