Saturday, February 29, 2020

A stereotype is defined by the Oxford Dictionary

A stereotype is defined by the Oxford Dictionary Every individual holds stereotypes. A stereotype is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology (pg. 730) as: ‘a relatively fixed and oversimplified generalisation about a group or class of people, usually focusing on negative or unfavourable characteristics’. When people put too much faith in stereotypical descriptions of people they can become prejudiced and can often discriminate against other groups. This can be very harmful and has led to countless atrocities, such as the racial purging of the Jews by the Nazis. Prejudices still are being fought through laws, such as Equal Opportunities legislation. However, the subject being discussed is not whether stereotypes are harmful or justifiable; it is whether they have a practical purpose, or are wasteful. It is generally the common consensus that stereotyping and prejudice should not continue. However without stereotypes we may find the social world a lot harder to perceive and understand. We rely on stereotypes to h elp us function in society. With such a diverse population, the environment we live in could be very confusing. Unfortunately stereotypes may block out a lot of what makes our society so diverse and just group people into simple categories. They may also affect peoples’ choices in life. Career paths people may want to take could seem inappropriate for someone in their group and so are avoided. From an evolutionary standpoint, stereotypes must have a use because they exist. People start creating stereotypes from a very young age and they are hard to break. However, having a purpose doesn’t exclude the fact that stereotypes are wasteful. The main beneficial use of stereotypes is that they greatly speed up cognitive processing. The world is full of people, they all look unique and the all behave differently. If each person chose to actively perceive and evaluate every individual they encountered, there wouldn’t be much time for anything else. This is why stereotype s exist. People can glance around a room, see a spectrum of faces and not have to stop to think about each person. This frees up the brain for more important tasks. Macrae, Milne, & Bodenhausen (1994) as cited by Taylor, Peplau, & Sears (pg. 184). conducted an experiment to see if the priming of stereotypes can leave the brain freer to process other information. Students were presented with a list of trait words for an individual and, at the same time, information about Indonesia. Half of these students were first given a group label for the individual, e.g. Black or Italian. Those given the group label remembered more traits that were label consistent and more information about Indonesia. This demonstrates that stereotypes make the social world a lot easier to process and are definitely very useful. However, this oversimplification of the world we see can lead us to prejudice against other groups, and can lead to discrimination. People often look only at the negative characteristic s of a group. In doing this we may waste the important contributions that these different groups’ perspectives can offer. Taylor, Fiske, Eticoff, & Ruderman (1978) as cited by Taylor et al. (pg. 185) asked participants to observe a conversation between people of a mix of races. When asked to remember which individual made certain contributions the participants would often only be able to remember the race of the individual. This shows that people often place far too much emphasis on group membership and can ignore the attributes of the individual. This can lead people to ignore information that comes from a source that they may deem inferior.

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