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For the term used in computing, see stereotype (computing).
For the term used in its original printing sense, see etymology below.

Stereotypes are ideas held by some individuals about members of particular groups, based solely on membership in that group. They are often used in a negative or prejudicial sense and are frequently used to justify certain discriminatory behaviors. More benignly, they may express sometimes-accurate folk wisdom about social reality.


[edit] Explanation

Assumed characteristics on a large group of individuals whose beliefs, habits, and realities often disagree with the imposed image.

Stereotype production is based on:

  • Simplification
  • Exaggeration or distortion
  • Generalization
  • Presentation of cultural attributes as being 'natural'.
  • Unshakeable belief in stability of stereotype
  • Racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination
  • Historical factors

Stereotypes are seen by many as undesirable beliefs imposed to justify the acts of discrimination and oppression. It is thought, education and/or familiarization can change these misbeliefs. Other negative effects are:

  • justification of ill-founded prejudices or ignorance
  • unwillingness to rethink one's attitudes and behavior towards stereotyped group
  • self-fulfilling prophecy for both stereotyping and stereotyped group (White people treat black people in a more hostile way due to being afraid of them. Black people accordingly react more aggressively, thus confirming the stereotype ....)

On the other hand, stereotypes are a result of our need to selectively perceive our environment. We notice, remember and store the information that is most noticeable (e.g. most strange, different, pleasing or detestable about someone) and that which confirms what we already seem to know. Thus stereotypes help us to 'understand' and structure the complex world around us, because they are a 'useful' simplifications. They provide stock-information about what to expect and how to act concerning certain groups of people. However, direct contact with members of this group may modify the stereotype by adding more and more details, until finally it has to be given up, because the necessary oversimplification and generalization are no longer appropriate. [1])

Stereotypes can be negative or positive, even for the same group: Black men are generally supposed to be good musicians and basketball-players, but at the same time seen as aggressive and likely to take and sell drugs. The effects, of stereotypes, too, can have positive and negative effects: Students who were implicitly made aware of their gender behaved as the stereotype suggested:

Asian-American women performed better in maths-tests when being aware of being Asian, and did worse when being reminded of being women.[2]

Stereotyping can also be created by the media showing an incorrect judgement of a culture or place, making people into stereotypes.

Often the terms stereotype and prejudice are confused:

  • Stereotypes are a generalization of characteristics; they reduce complexity, provide stability and also can offer opportunities to identify oneself with others.
  • Prejudices are either an abstract-general preconception or an attitude towards individuals.

[edit] Stereotypes of groups

Common stereotypes include a variety of allegations about groups based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or religious belief, along with profession and social class (see social stereotype). Stereotypes can also be based on an individual's physical size, handicaps or other characteristic.

[edit] Stereotypes within groups

A variety of stereotypes usually exist within major social groups, and relate to the variety of identified that exist within their own group. For instance, the western urban lesbian sub-culture has strong sub-group stereotypes regarding butch and femme lesbians; bisexuals; granola dykes; and many other sub-groups within the lesbian subculture.

[edit] Stereotypes in culture

Stereotypes are common in the world of drama, where the term is often used as a form of dramatic shorthand for "stock character". In literature and art, stereotypes are clichéd or predictable characters or situations. For example, the stereotypical devil is a red, impish character with horns, bifurcated tail, and a trident, whilst the stereotypical salesman is a slickly-dressed, fast-talking individual who cannot usually be trusted. The Italian Commedia Dell'arte was known for its stock characters and stock situations, which could be considered drama stereotypes. Throughout history, storytellers have drawn from stereotypical characters and situations, in order to quickly connect the audience with new tales. Sometimes such stereotypes can be very complex and sophisticated, such as Shakespeare's Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

The instantly recognisable nature of stereotypes mean that they are very useful in producing effective advertising and situation comedy. Media stereotypes change and evolve over time - for instance, we now instantly recognize only a few of the stereotyped characters shown to us in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. The teen sitcom, Saved By The Bell features a typical group of high school stereotypes such as a "prep" (Zack Morris), a "jock" (A.C. Slater), a "nerd" (Samuel "Screech" Powers), a cheerleader (Kelly Kapowski), a feminist (Jessie Spano) and a superficial fashion plate (Lisa Turtle).

[edit] Etymology

The word stereotype was invented by Firmin Didot in the world of printing; it was originally a duplicate impression of an original typographical element, used for printing instead of the original. American journalist Walter Lippmann coined the metaphor, calling a stereotype a "picture in our heads" saying "Whether right or wrong, ...imagination is shaped by the pictures seen... Consequently, they lead to stereotypes that are hard to shake." (Public Opinion, 1922, 95-156). To note, cliché and stereotype were both originally printers' words, and in their literal printers' meanings were synonymous. Specifically, cliché was an onomatopoetic word for the sound that was made during the stereotyping process when the matrix hit molten metal.

[edit] Ethology

In ethology, stereotyped behaviour or fixed action pattern is an innate, pre-programed response that is repeated when an animal is exposed to an environmental innate releasing mechanism.

[edit] See also

[edit] Lists

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[edit] References

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