Stereotypes and Self


Photo is a location I created in my new novel.

Is it possible not to “profile” other people or “stereotype” them? After all, we rely on personal perceptions and subjective past experience every time we look at another person. Our brains are constantly registering what we sense. We evaluate and make judgments whether or not we’re conscious of the process. When reading a story, the reader relies on cues the writer puts in to indicate which characters are evil and which ones are not. Sometimes the reader is fooled. In real life, it’s much more difficult to get a real sense of another person.

We don’t limit our evaluations to humans. We see a stray dog. Is it friendly or should we walk the other way? What about past experience? We base our opinions and feelings on memories, personal and what we’ve been told. On the knowledge stored in our brain. These things react with the sensory inputs we’re getting. And then, when we make a choice, it’s said to be either logical or illogical. Based on?

The scientific method says we should be able to test our conclusions. This isn’t so easy when we’re talking about human interaction with all the attendant emotional components. My point of view is unique to me as are my personal experiences. Perhaps this opinion matches the views of others. If it does, is that proof the conclusion is correct?

Or should we rely on gut feeling? Can we just look at someone and know who they are? Perhaps it’s more valid to judge by behavior, but what behaviors do we use and which ones lead us astray? If a majority of people think that some social activity or behavior is bad, will it always prove this is true? Bad this year, or next year? For example, women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive and wear burkas. The whole sex has been given attributes and stereotyped. A whole group is labeled and the label sticks, often for the benefit of one group and to the detriment of another.

So is stereotyping a part of our selfish gene, the one that wants supremacy? Do you think humans will ever get over this tendency?

Mickey Hoffman is the author of the mystery novels Deadly Traffic and School of Lies, published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC.
www.mickeyhoffman.com

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~ by mickeyhoffman on March 29, 2012.

2 Responses to “Stereotypes and Self”

  1. I think it will take a long time for people to stop the natural tendency to be cautious of something ‘different.’ Here in the south, we are constantly shown all the shootings and thefts that are happening here. 95% of the crimes shown on the news are committed by African Americans. If a person is not associated with any African Americans, they would naturally assume that all African Americans are subject to being criminals and therefore dangerous. It takes effort to engage in educating yourself about things that are not within a person’s common scope of awareness. The reality is that for every crime committed by an African American, there are a thousand other African Americans that are upstanding citizens. But the media does not show you this, it is up to an individual to discover it for themselves. And, most people are too busy or too lazy to step outside their comfort zone, relying on ‘outside sources’ to provide them with the facts, which are always skewed. Until that changes, we will be fraught with stereotyping and racial profiling. The truth…not all African Americans are criminals, not all Priests are pedophiles, not all politicians are corrupt, ect…

  2. Living apart increases the tendency to see the “other.” I think some stereotypes are just made for convenience, lazy minds not willing to do some thinking, just accept the last thing they’ve heard. There’s a great book called “Idiot America” which talks about how the media has influenced this tendency.

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