10 Reasons People Communicate Stereotypes

August 9th, 2013 | Categories: Uncategorized

Before you read the rest of this blog post, answer this question on a piece of paper:

Why do you think people communicate stereotypes?

Now, let’s explore some possible answers to this question.

1. People communicate stereotypes because they think stereotypes are accurate.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • There is no evidence from research.
  • You would have to study every stereotype case by case.
  • You only rely on faulty anecdotal evidence.
  • Knowing that a percent of people do something does not translate to knowing that any one person does that thing.

2. People communicate stereotypes because they have a psychological need to stereotype.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • You look racist even if you are not.
  • You are being a bully.
  • There are more productive ways to get rid of your frustration.
  • You won’t solve your problems this way.
  • When your frustration goes away you still have to deal with the consequences of your stereotyping.

3. People communicate stereotypes because their identity is based on their group membership.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • It’s easily manipulated. Label differently and ingroup and outgroup status changes.
  • You can become an outgroup member in an instant

4. People communicate stereotypes because it is mentally beneficial (functional) for them.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • Our expectancies bias our ability to remember information
  • Results in poor decision making because our bias affects our ability to draw conclusions

5. People communicate stereotypes because it is beneficial (functional) for them to communicate.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • There are better communication choices you can make to serve each function.
  • Stereotypes are impersonal messages.
  • As a result of them being impersonal they hurt relationship development

6. People communicate stereotypes because some stereotypes come to mind easily and quickly.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • Stereotypes of majority groups are not communicable while stereotypes of minority groups are more communicable.
  • Stereotypes disproportionately target and affect minority groups.
  • Communicating even one stereotype adds to the communicability of that stereotype and makes it more likely to be communicated by someone else

7. People communicate stereotypes because they don’t take their own stereotype use seriously.

But if this is your reason for communicating stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • You do actually communicate stereotypes.
  • Thinking stereotypes and communicating stereotypes are two different things.
  • No one can read your mind but communication is public.
  • Few people will call you out on communicating stereotypes but it is very possible we are thinking it.

8. People communicate stereotypes because of the interactional dilemma they cause

But if this is your reason for stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because…

  • You can leave a conversation thinking someone agrees with you and instead you’ve lost an opportunity to connect with someone.
  • It hurts your ability to network.
  • It hurts your ability to develop deeper relationships.
  • You can never know the opportunities you missed (e.g., raises, new jobs, promotions).

9. People communicate stereotypes because they haven’t heard a good enough reason not to.

  • People say don’t communicate stereotypes because of prejudice, discrimination, offensiveness and political correctness.
  • These reasons are other-centered.
  • Not everyone is motivated by egalitarian values to be empathetic and help others.
  • People are inherently self-centered.
  • People want to know what’s in it for them to stop stereotyping.

But if this is your reason for stereotypes you shouldn’t do it because of the self-centered reasons above…

  • You are wrong in thinking they are accurate.
  • You are making a poor communication choice.
  • You are making a bad impression on others.
  • You are hurting your relationships and potential for new relationships.
  • You are making poor decisions based on expectancy bias.
  • You can’t solve you personal or professional problems by stereotyping.
  • You can be a victim of stereotyping some day in a hurtful way by people you thought were in your ingroup and you will need friends when that happens.
  • You sincerely had no idea the stereotypes you communicated were just as bad as the ones celebrities are communicating.
  • You really don’t want to play a role in prejudice and discrimination that disproportionately affects minority groups.

10. People communicate stereotypes because they actually are racist, homophobic, antisemitic, sexist, and so forth.

  • Don’t you jump to this conclusion when you think about why people communicate stereotypes.
  • Consider nine other reasons they might be communicating stereotypes that sound a lot more likely and are a lot easier to fix.
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