What is a Stereotype?

Definition: A stereotype is a popular and over-generalized thought or image about a certain group of individuals.

Examples of Stereotypes

The group of individuals falling into a certain stereotype need to have one common attribute such as:

  1. being from the same gender (Example stereotype: All men are cheaters)
  2. residing in the same city ( Example stereotype: New Yorkers are always in a rush)
  3. being from a certain race or country (Example stereotype: Asians are very good in Math or Serbian girls are beautiful )

Stereotypes can even be career related (Example stereotype: Flight Attendants are beautiful) or related to a College or School (All Harvard graduates are successful).

Serbian girl

Serbian girl
From Flickr, User: Milos Milosevic


Are stereotypes 100 % accurate?

Stereotypes can never be 100 % accurate; this is why stereotypes are defined as an “over-generalization” of a thought or an image.

Are stereotypes true?

Each popular stereotype has truth behind its origins, otherwise, the stereotype wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Types of Stereotypes

How are stereotypes formed?

On a macro level, Stereotypes, just like any form of human knowledge, build up from the collective observations and learning experiences of the whole human race. On a micro level, stereotypes form in three stages (For the ease of the demonstration, let us call a random individual of our society, Adam):

  • Stage 1: Observation: Adam observes a common and a recurrent phenomenon in the behavior or image of a certain group of people. (let us assume that Adam lives in a multicultural society)
    • Adam sees a beautiful girl at his college, he asks her, “where are you from?”
      • Girl: I’m from Serbia.
    • A couple of days later, he meets another girl in the Gym, “where are you from?”
      • Girl2: I’m from Serbia.
  • Stage 2: Research and Generalization: Adam, based on his frequent observations, is able to synthesize and conclude a concept or a general image about the concerned group of individuals.
    • Adam goes to Google image search and types “Serbian Girls”, and Google returns some more stunning girls in the search results.
    • Adam reaches his conclusion: Serbian girls are beautiful
Beautiful Serbian Girls

Beautiful Serbian Girls

  • Stage 3: Social Reinforcement: Humans are social creatures. So Adam goes on and he tells his best friends about all the beautiful Serbian girls he has met. Luis, one of his close friends, agrees and adds on that he went to Serbia on one summer vacation and he was stunned by the Serbian Beauty. This new form of knowledge is extended to a bigger circle of friends and acquaintances and so on and is further reinforced by more individuals like Adam who had the same observation.

Viola: A stereotype is born, Serbian girls are beautiful