by Adriana Wells
A stereotype is, by definition, a fixed idea of a person, group, or thing. But what is a stereotype to people who are the subject of a stereotype, or to those who project them?
Examples of stereotypes include a study that revealed that a majority believed the media correctly portrayed negative stereotypes about Latino men and women. In addition, science shows certain popular movies such as Mean Girls negatively affect the way women are viewed by men, particularly when a woman is blonde.
As both of the aforementioned stereotypes come from the same source, it is important to recognize the media, and parents and peers, as a major source of judgment.
So how does all this affect us?
Some have grown wary of people in ethnic groups other than their own out of the fear of confirming a negative assumption against them, also known as stereotype threat. In such a world, it is, literally, impossible to avoid this instinct, especially subconsciously.
According to psychology, these generalizations are made because of an instinct that tells us that we need to make quick judgments about people and situations that could potentially be life-threatening. In the case of today, these judgments are made out of fear of being generally unaccepted, and are a method of retaliation.
A study conducted by Daniel Katz and Kenneth Braly in 1933 showed that several individuals had similar opinions of a certain ethnic group, and even members of a specific group subconsciously revealed negative opinions about themselves. In a more recent study conducted by the University of Toronto, stereotyping has a lasting negative effects on the subject of the stereotype. Such effects include aggression, over-eating, and the inability to focus.
Annie Murphy Paul, a journalist for Psychology Today, said, “We all use stereotypes, all the time, without knowing it. We have met the enemy of equality, and the enemy is us.”
While simply avoiding generalizations can prevent being visibly judgmental, there is no way to really stop stereotyping – it’s a habit that takes form in childhood. But it is possible to be aware of the stereotypes we make and turn them into something else.
“I think all stereotypes are positive,” said Fliciti Sanchez, a student at Monticello High School. “They can be negative, but only if you make it negative.”