Stereotypes: The Truth Behind Cultural Clichés

Stereotypes are often understood solely as common beliefs about a particular category or group of people, including their personality, appearance, or abilities. However, they also serve as mental shortcuts, helping us generalize, reduce cognitive load, and make decisions quickly.

the full story
Stereotype intro

A Stereotype is a common belief about a particular category of things or a group of people, such as their personality, preferences, appearance or ability. For example:

French are fashionable, arrogant, romantic, and have poor hygiene. 

Germans are punctual, hardworking, straightforward, and have no sense of humor.

Americans are optimistic, loud, materialistic, and lack cultural awareness.

And Japanese are shy, disciplined, can’t drink alcohol, and love anything cute.

Benefit of stereotypes
Stereotype benefit

Accurate or not, stereotypes help our mind to categorize information and make predictions — so that we can act fast without thinking. Whether you agree or disagree with any of the clichés we presented about the French, Germans, Americans, and Japanese, two types of stereotypes might have clouded your judgment. 

Explicit stereotypes
Explicit stereotype

Explicit Stereotypes are preconceptions you are aware of. For instance, you may have heard of the cliche that the French are arrogant. Armed with this self-awareness, you try to interact with each French individual from a seemingly unbiased standpoint. However, you might still be judgmental, because of another sort of stereotype.

implicit stereotypes
Implicit stereotype

Implicit stereotypes are those that guide your thoughts from your subconscious — the stories about people your parents might have told you when you were too young to remember. Associations that make you judgmental without you even realizing it. And that’s a problem.

stereotype threat
Stereotype threat

If we are part of a group that is the target of stereotypes, they can become a threat.

A stereotype threat occurs when people are aware of the negative cliché others hold against their group and then become afraid that they confirm it. As a consequence, their performance often decreases. 

navigating stereotype
Navigate stereotype

Say a society holds the belief that boys are better in mathematics, teachers just need to point out that myth prior to math tests, and some girls will get anxious and as a result, perform worse than men. Even just sitting next to boys can significantly lower their grades. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie summarized the problem like this: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

what do you think?
Stereotype WDYT

So what do you think? Are some stereotypes still useful in today’s diverse world? If yes, why? And if not, how can we get rid of them? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And while you are at it, tell us, are some of the clichés presented in this video true?

Sources

Dig deeper!

Classroom activity

In the following activity students will learn about stereotypes and biases. 

  • Ask the class what they know about stereotypes, and why they think they exist 
  • Ask them about how stereotypes can affect their behavior or even perception.
  • Show the class Sprouts’ video on Stereotypes. 
  • Ask the class about Explicit biases they may have, and how they affect their behavior. 
  • Ask the class about Implicit biases they think they, or other students have, and how it affects their life. 
  • Ask the class about the Stereotypes they have about themselves, and how it affects how they behave. 
  • Finally ask the students how they can diminish the influence of stereotypes on their lives.

Collaborators

  • Script: Ludovico Saint Amour di Chanaz and Jonas Koblin
  • Artist: Pascal Gaggelli
  • Voice: Matt Abbott
  • Coloring: Sasalux
  • Editing: Peera Lertsukittipongsa
  • Production: Selina Bador
  • Sound Design: Miguel Ojeda

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