Definition: A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing
Most of us have automatic and involuntary reflexes when we meet others, especially in face-to-face social situations. These spontaneous reflexes often correspond with individual and group determined stereotypical patterns and stereotypes.
We regularly use these stereotypes to spontaneously deal with and guide us in new situations. Unfortunately, stereotypes are characteristically infected with prejudice and they pay little attention to the individual(s) in front of us. This may be an initial and even longer term view of others.
It seems inevitable that each of us carry around mental structures we impose on the World, it is through these structures we attempt to make sense of it.
Even though stereotyping is inexact, it is an efficient way to mentally organize large blocks of information. Most of us have been doing this since early childhood.This categorisation (putting things into ‘boxes’) is an essential human capability; it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world.
Once an individual has sorted and organized everything and everyone into reasonably tidy categories, there is a human tendency to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual and thing. Thus, the categories become inflexible and stereotyped. This is especillay true when these categories are shared with others, who support our own view of reality.
Assigning general characteristics to members of a group, saves time and satisfies the need to predict social interaction in a general sense. Howver, it leads us to ignore individuals.
Stereotypes, while psychologically inevitable, need to be constantly updated and need to be seen to be imperfect.
• Categorisation helps us to make sense of the World – to simplify and organize reality.
• People often perceive differences suspiciously or even negatively.
• Stereotypes influence the way we process information and what we remember.
• Stereoypes lead us to ignore individuals.
• Stereoypes are based on old knowledge and experience and therefore need constant updating.