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Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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4 Stereotyping

Stereotyping is another idea (or concept) which is important in social science. It means having a fixed idea about an individual on the basis of knowing which group they belong to. Stereotyping can be harmful and lead to conflict because it depends on assumptions about, and simplifications of, an individual’s cultural beliefs and attitudes.

You have actually come across examples already in this course. For example, Popeye stereotypes ‘palookas’ and, more seriously, society has stereotypes about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers.

Using stereotypes distorts how we think about situations. It leads to assumptions that are based on very limited information about a person, such as their age or gender (not just whether they are a palooka).

Stereotyping tends to overlook the fact that most people will feel connected to a collection of cultures and belong to a number of groups. These connections and memberships play a very big part in making up our identity. If you are aware of only one part of an individual’s identity, you will be missing out on crucial information about who they are and how they see themselves.

Sometimes the groups and cultures an individual feels connected to can appear in the first instance to be very diverse and lead to what appears to be a very complex identity. To illustrate this complexity, read the case study in the next section.