Stereotype Definition in Psychology With Examples

Stereotype Definition in psychology: Stereotypes are incorrect ideas that humans have about someone. Stereotypes are fixed and about a particular group of people. For a better understanding of stereotypes and schemas, first, we should know the concepts of generalization and discrimination.

stereotype definition in psychology

As we go through our life, we experience exemplars of certain things and we start to realize similarities in these examples.

How are stereotypes formed?

Let’s say the first time you are traveling by air and the first time you go to an airport and when you go there, maybe you’re going with somebody else and you will learn the set of behaviors that are related to air travel. Where to board, security checks, how to sit, tie belts, deboarding, etc.

You also learn the features of air travel these features typically involve some sort of rules and procedures, and we should do the same thing. We generalize from these individual experiences to a certain class of events. This is called generalization.

When we again walk at the international airport or ship port, even if we’ve never been there before, even if it’s new to us, very quickly we can learn those features. And once we see those features, we now know what to do. We know what our role is.

We will quickly realize that those behaviors don’t work there and we need to follow some different rules for international flights. We quickly realize different sets of behaviors. So originally we have to learn that different set of behaviors. This is called discrimination.

The claim is that right from very young children we are going through the world, having experiences and learning which ones we can cluster together and generalize between, and which ones we have to create separate categories for. This ability to generalize is extremely useful because it means we don’t have to learn things from scratch every time.

Once we begin to develop a schema of a certain kind, and we learn the features of that, then if we see those features in a new situation, we can apply the same schema, usually successfully and we don’t have to learn from scratch. So it, allows us learning to transfer, and it allows our behaviors to be much more guided.

Stereotype Definition in psychology and real life example

Let’s take the example of male versus female differences. We meet a lot of males and females in your life. We may learn that there are certain differences that tend to be there.

Those differences may not be as consistent or as extreme. But we generally learn, for example, that men tend to be larger, that men tend to be stronger, that men tend to be more aggressive, and that females tend to be more beautiful, they tend to be nicer people, they tend to be more caring.

By our experience, we generalize and create schemas in our minds. The first time we meet a new female there’s no doubt we bring some of those assumptions with us. We assume this new female will in some ways respond like previous females and that the behavioral repertoire, the way we behave towards the females in the past.

If we apply those behaviors to this new female there are chances that there are females that are very different from the average female. So if we have a schema based on the females we’ve met, there are times when we will try to apply that to a new individual and it won’t work that’s one problem with schemas.

What is an example of a positive stereotype?

Stereotypes, when they are based on real information, the information you’ve gathered from interacting with the world tend to be more useful than problematic.

The good part of that process outweighs the negative. For example, it is a general view that a tall person can play better basketball. Somebody would think just because you are tall, you can play basketball. In this situation, stereotypes motivate and strong his belief to play basketball.

Is stereotype a negative word?

Notions of schemas are generally very useful but they can go wrong. What happens when we apply a generalization to people? This generalization assumes something that may be on average true. Some difference on average correct is not necessarily correct for every individual.

But when your stereotypes are based on false information, when they are based on things like media exposure, books, magazines, movies, and especially if there’s a systematic bias in the media, stereotypes are very harmful. Our role models feed into our stereotypes.

When media tend to present underweight women as a fit and desired figure, we start to think and change our definition of beauty. We form that stereotype. That’s when things really can start to become harmfully prejudicial. Even in children’s cartoons and children’s entertainment we found false stereotypes about gender roles.

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