Stereotypes

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Stereotypes or stereotyped attitudes are simplified and/or standardized conceptions or images with specific meaning, often held in common by members of a group. A stereotype can be a conventional and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. Stereotypes can range from those that are wildly inaccurate and negative to those that are more than a little bit true and may even shed positive light upon the group of individuals. They are typically generalizations based on minimal or limited knowledge about a group to which the person doing the stereotyping does not belong. Persons may be grouped based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any number of other categories.

Different disciplines give different accounts of how stereotypes develop: Psychologists focus on how experience with groups, patterns of communication about the groups, and intergroup conflict. Sociologists focus on the relations among groups and position of different groups in a social structure. Stereotypes, by definition, are never accurate representations, but a projection of an individual’s fears onto others, regardless of the reality of others. Although stereotypes are rarely entirely accurate, statistical studies have shown that in some cases stereotypes do represent measurable facts.

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