Free «Social Stereotypes» Essay Sample

Social Stereotypes

Stereotypes are an integral part of human life. Along with the cultural norms and rules, stereotypes have a significant impact on the type of interaction between individuals and groups of people. Given that there are different groups of people (ethnic, political, religious and others), stereotypes may also have political, religious, or ethical implications.

Social stereotype can be defined as a generalized, simplistic, and rigid system of widely shared ideas about identifiable groups of people in which each person is seen as a carrier of the same set of the leading characteristics attributed to any member of the group regardless of his/her real qualities (McLeod, 2008). Social stereotypes about different racial, ethnic, and religious groups are the most common. According to the certain stereotypes, people might expect certain behavior from an individual, which is similar to the social role.

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The main difference between a social stereotype and a social role is that the role includes a set of instructions for a particular group of people. Instructions meet people’s expectations, while a social stereotype suggests only expectations without prescriptions and instructions. The process of stereotyping (that is generation of stereotypes) is a special case of the process of categorization. The use of social stereotypes implies reducing a person to a general notion, which is a social stereotype. Being one of the main everyday concepts, social stereotype is usually characterized by the fact that it has an inadequate measure of the generality of an object’s essential features as well as their excess or partial set.

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In social psychology, stereotypes are particularly important, because they often affect the interaction between people and different social groups. Researchers, in particular Bodenhausen & Richeson (2010) and Cohen & Garcia (2005), pay great attention primarily to the negative stereotypes that may have an adverse effect on social interaction. According to them, the majority of social stereotypes can be considered as biases, which designate a hostile or negative attitude towards a specific group of people. One should take into account the fact that discrimination (sexual, racial, and ethnic) is directly related to the prejudices and biases.

At the same time, there is every reason to believe that a stereotype has an ability to vary according to changing conditions. In his book titled Resolving Conflict: A Practical Approach, Gregory Tillett (2000) notes that prejudices against migrants and immigrants are usually based on two different stereotypes. In the recession, people often perceive immigrants as invaders, who are trying to deprive them of their jobs. During the period of economic recovery, the locals pay attention primarily to the customs of the migrants that are inconsistent with their local traditions. No matter what stereotype is the basis of such hatred, it makes impossible building trust productive relationships with the hated groups. Dealing with the stereotypes existing between the two ethnic groups, which have a long history of conflicts, seems to be the most difficult task.

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In general, stereotypes can play not only a negative role by provoking conflicts and hostility between people but also a positive one contributing to the convergence of interests of individuals and groups. I often observe different stereotypes in my everyday life. For example, I witnessed when one young African-American came into the basketball hall, and many people who were present there immediately thought that he was a basketball player though none of them saw the boy playing basketball. Thus, like any other stereotype, the given stereotype emerged on the basis of visual perception of a boy as an African-American man and its automatic association with the knowledge that many blacks play basketball. The young boy did not even have to say a word, because the stereotype automatically defined the idea that he was a basketball player.

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To sum up, interaction between different people both within and outside their culture is based mainly on stereotypes. Stereotypes exist in the scope of diverse fields and play both positive and negative role in the implementation of intercultural communication. The positive effect of stereotypes can be seen in the fact that they minimize the effort of processing information coming from extra-linguistic reality since stereotypes are the generalizations of human experience of knowing the world. Stereotypes are the kind of helpful hints to form judgments, assumptions, and estimates of other people. The negative effect of stereotypes can be observed in the fact that this generalization might take into account unessential features. In turn, it can lead to an incorrect judgment, conclusions, interference, and failure in intercultural communication. All this justifies the need for a proper understanding of the stereotypes in everyday life since their improper use can lead not only to conflicts, but also enmity and hatred between individuals and groups of people.

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