A stereotype is when an opinion is formed about a person based on a generalisation about the group, class, gender or background he belongs to. Stereotypes exist in the media particularly to achieve comical effects and also in everyday life when people are trying to make sense of the world. Stereotypes can be advantageous in certain situations but they also have their disadvantages too.
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The Advantage of Gauging a Situation
Stereotypes are useful tools if you are in a new situation and need to make quick judgments and fast decisions. For example, if you have never been around a member of royalty or someone of great political stature, you might stereotype them as being formal and reserved, which will help you to respond to them in a respectful manner that mirrors their behaviour.
The Advantage of Making Sense of the World
The world is such a vast place, inhabited by billions of people so it is no wonder we seek out ways to simplify our surroundings so that they are easier to digest and understand. Stereotypes enable you to categorise people into manageable boxes, which allows you to form expectations about people and situations making life more predictable and easier to understand. For example, similar to the way that foods are put in \to types so you can make choices about where and what you eat, stereotypes provide people with a way of acknowledging different groups of human beings.
The Disadvantage of Making Snap Judgements
The downside of using a stereotype to make a judgment about someone is that it might be completely misguided and incorrect, causing you to act inappropriately or worse still, offend somebody. It is too simplistic to assume that groups of people share the same ideals and personality traits just because they have something in common like their dress sense, culture or taste in music. This is a form of prejudice and can be distressing for the person who is being prejudged, who might feel that they are misunderstood, particularly when a stereotype is racially motivated. The saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" demonstrates that appearance isn't enough to understand who a person really is.
The Disadvantage that Stereotypes are Usually Negative
Although positive stereotypes do exist, negative stereotypes are much more common, says "Simple Psychology." This means that more often than not, stereotypes encourage people to form a negative first impression of a person before they have given them the chance to reveal who they are. This negative categorisation of people can create an "us" and "them" attitude, which in turn can create problems in many social situations like the workplace, at school or in the local community. This could happen in the workplace if a female boss were to manage a group of men. The female might feel that she has to prove that she is capable to do the job because of the negative stereotyping that suggests that women are less capable, and the men might in turn assume that she is bossy and incompetent, thus creating a negative footing for her in the company.
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