Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Jennifer M. Koleser
Stereotypes are oversimplified generalizations used to describe a person or group. They can exist in virtually unlimited categories. Age, gender, race/ethnicity, religion, hair color, height, weight, residential locale, and occupation are but a few of the possibilities. Stereotypes act as a means to simplify unfamiliar situations. In initial contact with an unknown person or group, one typically engages in categoric knowing ; that is, classification on the basis of limited information obtained by visual and/or verbal clues. These quick judgments may well contain some elements of truth, since they rest on perceived characteristics. The problem is that, once assigned, these stereotyped characteristics virtually take on a life of their own, becoming difficult to eradicate. Moreover, when stereotypes get applied to an entire group, such perceptions ignore the wide range of individual differences within that group. Another problem with stereotypes is that they affect others' reactions to the one stereotyped. For ...