Topic 1: Stereotypes

Stereotypes are “generalizations” about members of a group. Usually these are generalisations of members of an out-group (meaning a group we don’t belong to) for example: the immigrants, the homosexuals, women/men and so. The problems with stereotypes are that:

  • Not a single generalization can be valid for 100% of the members of the group, so if we apply the generalization to individuals, we are very likely to be wrong.
  • Sometimes generalizations can be fairly accurate, but very often they would be wrong, especially if they are about a group that we don’t know very well.
  • Some of the stereotypes can be positive, but most of them are negative.
  • Stereotypes are very “stubborn” and resistant to change.

Stereotypes are dangerous not only because of their own nature, but also because they lead to prejudice and discrimination. Suggested reading: Plous. S. (2003) Understanding prejudice and discrimination, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Accepting the existence of different value systems, beliefs and being able to recognise stereotypes and avoid their negative effect on our behaviour towards other people is an essential part of organisational and community awareness. Sensitivity to diversity includes acceptance and respect, while recognizing our individual differences and uniqueness.