A stereotype is a held popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. Theories on stereotypes
Different disciplines give different accounts of how stereotypes develop: Psychologists may focus on an individual's experience with groups, patterns of communication about those groups, and intergroup conflict. Pioneering psychologist William James cautioned psychologists themselves to be wary of their own stereotyping, in what he called the psychologist's fallacy. Sociologists focus on the relations among groups and the of different groups in a social structure. Psychoanalytically-oriented humanists have argued (e.g., Sander Gilman) that stereotypes, by definition, are representations that are not accurate, but a projection of one to another. A number of theories have been derived from sociological studies of stereotyping and prejudicial thinking. In early studies it was believed that stereotypes were only used by rigid, repressed, and authoritarian people. Sociologists concluded that this was a result of conflict, poor parenting, and inadequate mental and emotional development. This idea has been overturned; more recent studies have concluded that stereotypes are commonplace. One theory as to why people stereotype is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people as individuals. Even though stereotyping is inexact, it is an efficient way to mentally organize large blocks of information. Categorization is an essential human capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once one has sorted and organized everyone into tidy categories, there is a human tendency to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual. Assigning general group characteristics to members of that...
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