What are stereotypes? Stereotypes are an overgeneralization applied to an entire group of people. There are many ways that stereotypes are portrayed in society such as jokes, literature, and other forms of media in our culture. They are typically based on minimal knowledge about a group. People may be grouped based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or community. A number of theories have been derived from the sociological studies of stereotyping and prejudicial thinking. One theory as to why people stereotype others is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people as individuals.
Even though stereotyping is inaccurate, it is an efficient way to mentally organize large amounts of information. This is essential to the mental capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once a person has sorted and organized everyone into smaller categories, there is a tendency to avoid processing new or unexpected information about an individual.
Assigning general group characteristics to members of a specific group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world around us.
Another theory is that people stereotype others because of the need to feel good about themselves. Stereotypes can protect someone from feeling worthless and enhance self-esteem. This happens by designating their own group as the standard of society and assigning others to groups considered abnormal; it provides them with a sense of worth. Stereotypes often are created in the subconscious where it can change our decisions and actions even in people who do not want to be seen as bias. Does this mean that stereotypes can affect our perception of others? What is perception?
It is the recognition of things using the senses while to others perception of something or someone is your understanding of them; perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of your environment’s information. Our personal perception controls most of everything we do. If we stereotype a specific group of people in a specific way we tend to have a varied perception on them. Throughout our lives we are constantly accepting and deciding on what we will believe or not believe. These preferences create filters that can block out awareness of what we do not wish to know about a specific group of people.
Sometimes we filter out so much information that we become blind to the reality of others and that can lock us into various types of stereotypes of ignorance. It feeds our reality and makes our perception stronger but can cause us to become isolated from the world around us. Stereotypes not only affect our perception of others, but can also affect our perception of ourselves. Gregory M. Walton, a psychology professor at Stanford University, conducted research analyzing stereotyped groups can actually perform worse than nonstereotyped groups at the same level of performance.
When students were taking the SAT they were asked to identify their race and gender prior to taking the test. Using data from the SAT, the study found that internal stereotypes were triggered reducing the scores of women on the math section by 19-21 points. The study also found that internal stereotypes reduced the scores of African and Hispanic Americans by 39-41 points. “In the classroom”, Gregory Walton stated, “stereotypes can be significantly reduced by teaching potentially stereotyped students about the phenomenon. He argued these students’ stereotypes attribute to feelings of anxiety about academics and threaten a personal or predisposed risk of failure. Perception affected by stereotypes can also be an issue in the work place. When you think of your coworkers they differ in a variety of ways such as race, marital status, and age. All of these differences can lead to stereotyping and cause work place tension. The important thing to remember is not just the presence of stereotypes, but how stereotypes can affect the subconscious and how we perceive others.
For example, one of my coworkers was spoken to by upper management. Due to her frustrations she began to cry. Others in the work place perceived her as emotionally driven due to her being a woman. This negative perception of a gender stereotype could have an impact on her career because management may view her as too emotional thus causing her to be passed up for a potential promotion. Another example was when a new manager was hired one of his employees did not like going to him with issues. She felt that because he was a man he was not a good listener and would not understand her problems.
This negative perception of a gender stereotype could have an impact on the company because issues are not getting resolved due to an employee feeling uncomfortable with her superior. Prejudice behavior and discrimination is a direct result of stereotyping. Instead of accepting individuals for their differences discrimination occurs in the work place. This type of behavior can be detrimental to a company. It can lower productivity and cause important tasks to not be completed. Stereotyping inhibits social development and group learning.
Work typecasting will directly hamper an individual’s ability to develop personal relationships and networking skills. Instead of giving people the opportunity to prove their personal worth they are assigned a predefined label. Based on assumption, individuals are placed into groups. Stereotypical behavior in the workplace causes negativity and unfair criticism. How stereotypes affect perception is integral to human relations because whether or not we realize it stereotypes can play a huge role in the work industry.
How stereotypes affect how we perceive the people we work with can cause issues because subconsciously we have a predetermine notion on a particular person. Not only does it affect us at work, but it can affect us in our everyday life. Stereotypes can affect how we interact with others because before we get to know someone we already have an idea of who they are by subconsciously predetermining them with a group rather than an individual. Stereotypes can be reduced by bringing people together. It’s hard to step back and assess a person for who they are before passing judgment.
Searching for more of the whole picture will create new meaning and enhance communication. If stereotypes can be lessened people will create better bonds with one another because their perception will not be tainted. No one is the same and no one single person can be grouped as a whole. We’re only human and we need the reassurance of mutually accepted beliefs not only from ourselves, but from our peers. In time we become aware of our perceptions on others and only we can change them. Once we realize our predetermined perception we can change it and get to know the person we thought we already knew.
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Scnider, David. The Psychology of Stereotyping. New York NY: Guilford Press, 2005 London, Manual. How People Evaluate Others in Organizations. Brandon VT: Psychology Press 2001
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