Stereotypes are beliefs without any sufficient basis displaying intolerance and contributing to social prejudice and injustice. Usually they appear as a sort of fixed ideas, or images about people and things. Stereotypes form people’s expectations, which influence their perception of the world, making it a chain reaction with each assumption inducing or influencing the next. Subsequently, people selectively recall occurrences that support and establish their stereotypes and ignore those that are disconfirming.
People evaluate differences between individuals and groups based on stereotypes and strive to predict other people’s behavior through perspective of stereotypes they have adopted. Thus, contributing to social prejudice, stereotypes often result in discrimination and conflicts. Furthermore, stereotyping may also lead to increasing narrow-mindedness in society, along with lacking tolerance, sympathy and breadth of view.
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The essence of social prejudice is revealed through three general theories: a Scapegoat Theory (ST), Authoritarian Personality Theory (APT) and a Conflict Theory (CT). The ST is exemplified by holocaust, where the Jewish nation was used as a scapegoat for all economic, political, and other problems encountered by Germany. That is, a ST implies choosing an object to reveal all the negative emotions upon. APT relates the widespread of social prejudice to parent-child relationship, acknowledging it as an original source of the prejudice. CT emerged as a Marxist theory, viewing and explaining relationships in a society from a perspective of conflict between social classes.
People categorize society they live in based on racial, gender, sexual orientation or religious differences. Prejudice is measured in social desirability and distance between groups. Nevertheless, labeling people and things is neglecting the way they really are, so let us not remain ignorant and not let the stereotypes make up our minds for us.
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