A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice
Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

" are often confused with many other different meanings. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions.


The term stereotype derives from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 words στερεός (stereos), "firm, solid" and τύπος (typos), "impression," hence "solid impression".

It was invented by Firmin Didot
Firmin Didot
Firmin Didot was a French printer, engraver, and type founder. He invented the word "stereotype", which in printing refers to the metal printing plate created for the actual printing of pages , and used the process extensively, revolutionizing the book trade by his cheap editions...

 in the world of printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

; it was originally a duplicate impression of an original typographical element, used for printing instead of the original. American journalist Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War...

 coined the metaphor, calling a stereotype a "picture in our heads" saying, "Whether right or wrong (...) imagination is shaped by the pictures seen (...) originally printers' words, and in their literal printers' meanings were synonymous. Specifically, cliché
A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

 was a French word for the printing surface for a stereotype. The first reference to "stereotype," in its modern, English use was in 1850, in the noun, meaning "image perpetuated without change."

The term, in its modern psychology sense, was first used by Walter Lippmann in his 1922 work Public Opinion
Public Opinion
Public Opinion , by Walter Lippman, is a critical assessment of functional democratic government, especially the irrational, and often self-serving, social perceptions that influence individual behavior, and prevent optimal societal cohesion...

although in the printing sense
Stereotype (printing)
In printing, a stereotype, also known as a cliché, stereoplate or simply a stereo, was originally a "solid plate or type-metal, cast from a papier-mâché or plaster mould taken from the surface of a forme of type" used for printing instead of the original...

 it was first coined in 1798.


In one perspective of the stereotyping process, there are the concepts of ingroups and outgroups. From each individual's perspective, ingroups are viewed as normal and superior, and are generally the group that they already associate with, or aspire to join. An outgroup is simply all the other groups. They are seen as lesser than or inferior to the in-groups. An example of this would be: Asians are smarter than Americans. In this example Asians are looked at as being smarter because their education systems are more strict than that of the Americans.

A second perspective is that of automatic and explicit or subconscious and conscious. Automatic or subconscious stereotyping is that which everyone does without noticing. Automatic stereotyping is quickly preceded by an explicit or conscious check which permits time for any needed corrections. Automatic stereotyping is affected by explicit stereotyping because frequent conscious thoughts will quickly develop into subconscious stereotypes.

A third method to categorizing stereotypes is general types and sub-types. Stereotypes consist of hierarchical systems consisting of broad and specific groups being the general types and sub-types respectively. A general type could be defined as a broad stereotype typically known among many people and usually widely accepted, whereas the sub-group would be one of the several groups making up the general group. These would be more specific, and opinions of these groups would vary according to differing perspectives.

Certain circumstances can affect the way an individual stereotypes. Some theorists argue in favor of the conceptual connection and that one's own subjective thought about someone is sufficient information to make assumptions about that individual. Other theorists argue that at minimum there must be a causal connection between mental states and behavior to make assumptions or stereotypes. Thus results and opinions may vary according to circumstance and theory. An example of a common, incorrect assumption is that of assuming certain internal characteristics based on external appearance. The explanation for one's actions is his or her internal state (goals, feeling, personality, traits, motives, values, and impulses), not his or her appearance.

Sociologist Charles E. Hurst, "One reason for stereotypes is the lack of personal, concrete familiarity that individuals have with persons in other racial or ethnic groups. Lack of familiarity encourages the lumping together of unknown individuals."

Stereotypes focus upon and thereby exaggerate differences between groups. Competition between groups minimizes similarities and magnifies differences.
This makes it seem as if groups are very different when in fact they may be more alike than different. For example, among African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s, identity as an American citizen is more salient than racial background; that is, African Americans are more American than African.

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
Psychologist's fallacy
The psychologist's fallacy is a fallacy that occurs when an observer presupposes the objectivity of their own perspective when analyzing a behavioral event. The fallacy was named by William James in the 19th century. It is a specific form of the "similar to me" stereotype: what is unknown about...

. Sociologists focus on the relations among different groups in a social structure. Psychoanalytically-oriented humanists (e.g., Sander Gilman) have argued 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 group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world in a general sense.

Another theory is that people stereotype because of the need to feel good about oneself
Self (psychology)
The psychology of self is the study of either the cognitive and affective representation of one's identity or the subject of experience. The earliest formulation of the self in modern psychology derived from the distinction between the self as I, the subjective knower, and the self as Me, the...

. Stereotypes protect one from anxiety and enhance self-esteem
Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame: some would distinguish how 'the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the...

. By designating one's own group as the standard or normal group and assigning others to groups considered inferior or abnormal, it provides one with a sense of worth.

Some psychologist believe that childhood influences are some of the most complex and influential factors in developing stereotypes. Though they can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Once a stereotype is learned, it often becomes self-perpetuating.

Other theories propose that the praising of intelligence and ability rather than effort and hard work inevitably changes the prospective from a malleable sense of self-worth to a definite concept of self-worth as seen from the individual and others around them.

Another prominent theory is the stereotype content model
Stereotype content model
The stereotype content model is a psychological theory that hypothesizes that stereotypes possess two dimensions: warmth and competence. Warmth being defined in this theory as how friendly, kind, and affectionate one seems. Competence being defined as how capable an individual appears to be...

 which attempts to predict behavior based on levels of warmth and competence.

Effects, accuracy, terminology

Stereotypes can have a negative and positive impact on individuals. Joshua Aronson and Claude M. Steele have done research on the psychological effects of stereotyping, particularly its effect on African Americans and women. They argue that psychological research has shown that competence is highly responsive to situation and interactions with others. They cite, for example, a study which found that bogus feedback to college students dramatically affected their IQ test performance, and another in which students were either praised as very smart, congratulated on their hard work, or told that they scored high. The group praised as smart performed significantly worse than the others. They believe that there is an 'innate ability bias'. These effects are not just limited to minority groups. Mathematically competent white males, mostly math and engineering students, were asked to take a difficult math test. One group was told that this was being done to determine why Asians were scoring better. This group performed significantly worse than the control group.

Possible prejudicial effects of stereotypes are:
  • Justification of ill-founded prejudices or ignorance
  • Unwillingness to rethink one's attitudes and behavior towards stereotyped group
  • Preventing some people of stereotyped groups from entering or succeeding in activities or fields

Stereotypes allow individuals to make better informed evaluations of individuals about whom they possess little or no individuating information, and in many, but not all circumstances stereotyping helps individuals arrive at more accurate conclusions. Over time, some victims of negative stereotypes display self-fulfilling prophecy behavior, in which they assume that the stereotype represents norms to emulate. Negative effects may include forming inaccurate opinions of people, scapegoating, erroneously judgmentalism, preventing emotional identification, distress, and impaired performance.

Yet, the stereotype that stereotypes are inaccurate, resistant to change, overgeneralized, exaggerated, and destructive is not founded on empirical social science research, which instead shows that stereotypes are often accurate and that people do not rely on stereotypes when relevant personal information is available. Indeed, Jussim et al. comment that ethnic and gender stereotypes are surprisingly accurate, while stereotypes concerning political affiliation and nationality are much less accurate; the stereotypes assessed for accuracy concerned intelligence, behavior, personality, and economic status.
Stereotype accuracy is a growing area of study and for Yueh-Ting Lee
Yueh-Ting Lee
-Yueh-Ting Lee :Dr. Yueh-Ting Lee received his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is an immigrant from China and he is a Social and Cross-Cultural Psychologist who has taught a variety of courses at various institutions for over 20 years. Currently he is a full professor in...

 and his colleagues they have created an EPA Model (Evaluation, Potency, Accuracy) to describe the continuously changing variables of stereotypes.

Role in art and culture

Stereotypes are common in various cultural media
Media (communication)
In communications, media are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data...

, where they take the form of dramatic stock character
Stock character
A Stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes,...

s. These characters are found in the works of playwright Bertold Brecht, Dario Fo
Dario Fo
Dario Fo is an Italian satirist, playwright, theater director, actor and composer. His dramatic work employs comedic methods of the ancient Italian commedia dell'arte, a theatrical style popular with the working classes. He currently owns and operates a theatre company with his wife, actress...

, and Jacques Lecoq
Jacques Lecoq
Jacques Pierre Lecoq born in Paris, was a French actor, mime and acting instructor.He is most famous for his methods on physical theatre, movement and mime that he taught at the school he founded in Paris, L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq from 1956 until his death in...

, who characterize their actors as stereotypes for theatrical effect. In commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

 this is similarly common. The instantly recognizable nature of stereotypes mean that they are effective in advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 and situation comedy
Situation comedy
A situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a genre of comedy that features characters sharing the same common environment, such as a home or workplace, accompanied with jokes as part of the dialogue...

. These stereotypes change, and in modern times only a few of the stereotyped characters shown in John Bunyan
John Bunyan
John Bunyan was an English Christian writer and preacher, famous for writing The Pilgrim's Progress. Though he was a Reformed Baptist, in the Church of England he is remembered with a Lesser Festival on 30 August, and on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on 29 August.-Life:In 1628,...

's The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been...

would be recognizable.

In literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

, stereotypes are cliché
A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

d or predictable characters or situations. Throughout history, storytellers have drawn from stereotypical characters and situations, in order to connect the audience with new tales immediately. Sometimes such stereotypes can be sophisticated, such as Shakespeare's Shylock
Shylock is a fictional character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.-In the play:In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who lends money to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the security at a pound of Antonio's flesh...

 in The Merchant of Venice. Arguably a stereotype that becomes complex and sophisticated ceases to be a stereotype per se by its unique characterization. Thus while Shylock remains politically unstable in being a stereotypical Jew, the subject of prejudicial
Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

 derision in Shakespeare's era, his many other detailed features raise him above a simple stereotype and into a unique character, worthy of modern performance. Simply because one feature of a character can be categorized as being typical does not make the entire character a stereotype.

Despite their proximity in etymological roots, cliché and stereotype are not used synonymously in cultural spheres. For example a cliché is a high criticism in narratology
Narratology denotes both the theory and the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect our perception. While in principle the word may refer to any systematic study of narrative, in practice its usage is rather more restricted. It is an anglicisation of French...

 where genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 and categorization
Categorization is the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated and understood. Categorization implies that objects are grouped into categories, usually for some specific purpose. Ideally, a category illuminates a relationship between the subjects and objects of knowledge...

 automatically associates a story within its recognizable group. Labeling a situation or character in a story as typical suggests it is fitting for its genre or category. Whereas declaring that a storyteller has relied on cliché is to pejoratively observe a simplicity and lack of originality in the tale. To criticize Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming
Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

 for a stereotypically unlikely escape for James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 would be understood by the reader or listener, but it would be more appropriately criticized as a cliché in that it is overused and reproduced. Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 genre relies heavily on typical features to remain recognizable and generate meaning in the reader/viewer.

In movies and TV the halo effect
Halo effect
The halo effect is a cognitive bias whereby one trait influences another trait or traits of that person or object. This is very common among physically attractiveness...

 is often used. This is when, for example, attractive men and women are assumed to be happier, stronger, nicer people .


North and South American;
East Asian and South Asian
Middle Eastern, West and Central Asian
Sexual orientation
  • Nurse stereotypes
    Nurse stereotypes
    The profession of nursing is stereotyped. Nurses are commonly expected to be female and so male nurses are stereotyped as effeminate and homosexual. In forms of low humour such as get-well cards, nurses are commonly portrayed as bimbos and, in medical drama and novels, nurses are commonly...

  • Animal stereotypes
  • Ethnic stereotype
    Ethnic stereotype
    An ethnic stereotype is a generalized representation of an ethnic group, composed of what are thought to be typical characteristics of members of the group.Ethnic stereotypes are commonly portrayed in ethnic jokes.-Ethnic stereotypes:*African Americans...

  • Physical attractiveness stereotype
    Physical attractiveness stereotype
    The physical attractiveness stereotype is a term that psychologists use to refer to the tendency to assume that people who are physically attractive also possess other socially desirable personality traits....

See also

  • Archetype
    An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

  • Assumption
    In logic and philosophy, the term proposition refers to either the "content" or "meaning" of a meaningful declarative sentence or the pattern of symbols, marks, or sounds that make up a meaningful declarative sentence...

  • Attribute substitution
    Attribute substitution
    Attribute substitution is a psychological process thought to underlie a number of cognitive biases and perceptual illusions. It occurs when an individual has to make a judgment that is computationally complex, and instead substitutes a more easily calculated heuristic attribute...

  • Attributional bias
    Attributional bias
    In psychology, an attributional bias is a cognitive bias that affects the way we determine who or what was responsible for an event or action...

  • Cognitive bias
    Cognitive bias
    A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations. Implicit in the concept of a "pattern of deviation" is a standard of comparison; this may be the judgment of people outside those particular situations, or may be a set of independently verifiable...

  • Communication noise
    Communication noise
    Communication noise refers to influences on effective communication that influence the interpretation of conversations. While often looked over, communication noise can have a profound impact both on our perception of interactions with others and our analysis of our own communication...

  • Counterstereotype
    A counter-stereotype, reverse stereotype, or anti-stereotype is the reverse of a stereotype.Although counter-stereotypes arise in opposition to stereotypes, they may eventually become stereotypes themselves if they are too popular....

  • Face-ism
    Face-ism or facial prominence is the relative prominence of the face in the portrayal of men and women. Research shows that media tend to feature more on men’s face and women’s body.-Origin and subsequent studies:...

  • Idée fixe (psychology)
    Idée fixe (psychology)
    For other uses, see Idée fixeAn idée fixe is a preoccupation of mind held so firmly as to resist any attempt to modify it, a fixation. The name originates from the French [French : idée, idea + fixe, fixed]...

  • Implicit stereotypes
    Implicit stereotypes
    First defined by psychologists Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji in 1995, implicit stereotypes are the unconscious attribution of particular qualities to members of social groups. Implicit stereotypes are influenced by experience, and are based on learned associations between various qualities...

  • Labeling theory
    Labeling theory
    Labeling theory is closely related to interactionist and social construction theories. Labeling theory was developed by sociologists during the 1960's. Howard Saul Becker's book entitled Outsiders was extremely influential in the development of this theory and its rise to popularity...

  • Milieu control
    Milieu control
    Milieu control is a term popularized by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton to describe tactics that control environment and human communication through the use of social pressure and group language; such tactics may include dogma, protocols, innuendo, slang, and pronunciation, which enables group...

  • Scapegoating
  • Self-Stereotyping
    The term self-stereotyping was coined as part of self-categorization theory and describes a process by which a perceiver will come to see themselves in a way more consistent with stereotypes about their in-group than they otherwise would...

  • Social control theory
    Social control theory
    In criminology, Social Control Theory Travis Hirschi fits into the Positivist School, Neo-Classical School, and, later, Right Realism. It proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as...

  • Stigmatization
  • Negativity effect
    Negativity effect
    In psychology, the negativity effect is the tendency of people, when evaluating the causes of the behaviors of a person they dislike, to attribute their positive behaviors to the environment and their negative behaviors to the person's inherent nature...

  • Outgroup homogeneity bias
    Outgroup homogeneity bias
    The outgroup homogeneity effect is one's perception of out-group members as more similar to one another than are in-group members. I.e. "they are alike; we are diverse". The outgroup homogeneity effect, or "relative outgroup homogeniety" has been explicitly contrasted with the "outgroup...

  • Trait ascription bias
    Trait ascription bias
    Trait ascription bias is the tendency for people to view themselves as relatively variable in terms of personality, behavior and mood while viewing others as much more predictable in their personal traits across different situations...

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.