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Generalizations and Stereotypes

Updated on September 12, 2019
Juneyoung Juma profile image

Juneyoung is a mentor and youth leader at Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles Kenya chapter.

A person who cannot be bothered to learn the facts for him/herself just adopts the secondhand opinions of other people without checking them.

The first time we meet a person from a particular school, town or country is important. The impression we have of that person (and he/her of us) will probably lead to the formation of a general picture of what such people are like. It is not possible to examine everything and everybody in the world individually. We naturally make generalizations, which serve as rough guides as what to expect from particular things or people. It is interesting to see how such generalizations develop and change.

Stereotypes of people work in a similar way. Many people have a set of assumptions and expectations about what people of the opposite sex are like, or what people of a particular race or nationality are like. Whenever they meet such a person, they have a certain image of what to expect in terms of behavior. If these expectations are correct, it helps a person to respond and relate to the person successfully. It also means that one will not be surprised by any idiosyncrasies. Businessmen, diplomats, and tourists usually spend some time studying the national character of a new country they are going to visit so they will know what to expect.

The problem is that often these generalizations become stereotypes -oversimplified and rigid images which are often distorted and exaggerated. There is usually a grain of truth - but only a grain - in them, because otherwise, they wouldn't have developed.

A person who traveled around the world expecting everyone, to be honest, would be very naive, and a person who expected everyone to be dishonest would miss many chances of making wonderful friends. Stereotypes rob a person of the ability to function fully in the world because they provide only a very distorted view of reality.

Stereotypes are harmful both to the person who holds them (since they cannot make informed decisions) and to the person or group that they are about.( since they may be subject to abuse)

Every person needs to examine the opinions and prejudices inherited from society and determine how accurate they are. We should be constantly on guard against absorbing new stereotypes about new groups of people.

Dependance on Stereotypes is the result of intellectual laziness

For your journal- why should we respect all people and not just those we feel are "deserving" of our respect?

Meeting someone for the first time.

Judging a book by its cover.

Life is simple, what we give, we get back.


Even an ugly thing seems beautiful to a loving heart- Theocritus, ancient Greek Poet

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© 2019 June Young


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