What Is The Mentality Behind Our Desire To Hold Onto Stereotypes?

October 17, 2011
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Although stereotypes fall into all categories, stereotyping people, especially those of color, create the greatest barriers to overcoming the race relations problems facing our society today. Photo Credit: Interracial Lifestyle

There are plenty of e-mail items and jokes circulating through the Internet that remind us of our most common racial stereotypes. Not that many of us forget.

Stereotypes are memes in which we consciously or subconsciously transfer our beliefs about others to others until they become popular assumptions. And the assumptions stick — no matter how many times we see evidence to the contrary.

Thanks to the Internet, thoughts and ideas become memes faster. However, many of us long hold on to beliefs about not only other races, but also other sexes and even professions.

Librarians are shy.

All men are chauvinist.

Blacks and Mexicans are lazy.

Jews are stringy.

All whites are racist.

Ken Hines, a St. Joseph Missouri psychologist, says many of us are not even aware we apply stereotypes. They are convenient and save us the trouble of gathering data about a particular person. Stereotypes are often based on data or the opinions of trusted elders, which makes them harder to dismiss.

“The world is a threatening place and pre-conceived impressions are better than none at all,” Hines says. “Without them we would be nervous and uneasy all the time, especially when we are exposed to strangers. If we were constantly aware that our pre-conceptions are mostly false, outdated, or inapplicable, we would lose confidence in our ability to size up situations on the fly and fit ourselves into them.”

Hines adds that it would be hard for us to give up stereotypes. He believes pre-judging others is something that is probably hardwired in us.

He says, “The best possible outcome for society is to make you aware of them, which will likely be an increased ability to suspend our behavioral reactions long enough to factor in our own personal observations and trust them over the automatic pre-judgments that we are also making, at least long enough to stay out of trouble.”


This article talks about how stereotypes portray particular races a certain way in a negative manner. The assumptions that we have due to stereotypes stick in our minds. When we are told something about a certain group of people, the images that form in our minds allow us to see the world through a warped perspective. An example of stereotypes listed in the article are that blacks and mexicans are lazy, jews are cheap, and whites are racists. However, this is not always the case. People should not be classified into a category because of their nationality. Ken Hines (psychologist) says that people apply stereotypes subconsciously. We look up to our elders for information, and they in turn feed us these racist notions. While "pre-conceived impressions" can help us know more about strangers and may keep us street smart and safe when we see someone on the road who looks shady, you cannot assume a whole race is bad because one person you encounter from that race is bad. This just leads to nieve and foolishness. We need to make our own judgments and not let other people judge for us.

Stereotypes are assumed traits that society has about a particular race. These stereotypes that people make about others are usually negative. They are also sometimes used to justify other people's actions that we do not understand.

Judging other people however, is a part of human nature. It would be hard to break away from it because we tend to choose the people we like interacting with based on the assumptions we made about them. Eliminating stereotyping from people's minds could be a difficult goal to achieve because it is already imbedded in people's mind as they try to justify the behavior of cultures they do not necessarily understand.

Assumption that we make about others usually inhibit us however, to really know a person. We tend to always make judgments about other people even before interacting with them. Judging people based on their race or color creates a lot of social problems and will not resolve any existing conflicts.

The horrible thing about the this article is that it's the truth. I would like to think that we could do something to change this but the media has a fault to this with the stereotyping. Judging people over an assumption is probably the worst thing one can do. We as the people need to change this and start talking about the truth beyond stereotypes.

when we stereotype people we are merely portraying an imagine of what they find is wrong and shouldn't be aloud. your only hurting yourself by not getting to know that person because they could have simpler characteristics that you have. The person that you are stereotyping is merely the same person as you, but a different colored race, or ethnicity or has a different educational background. overall, i think people should stop judging others and get to know them.