Stereotypes - Where do our ideas come from?

Stereotypes and Biases

Stereotypes (Where do our ideas—along with the feelings we have—about particular groups of people come from?) 

We have events that we participate in, hear or read about, or we see portrayed in the media (television, social and print media, podcasts, etc.). Our brain must make decisions about what is important to keep or ignore, and then it is left with a huge amount of information it must store.

The brain stores information about a large number of categories that are ready in the future, to be pulled up when needed. One of the storage mechanisms our brain uses is stereotypes—not necessarily because they are always accurate, but because they can be quickly accessed.

Our stereotypes develop from things we have experienced directly, read about, seen or heard in the media, or been told about by family and friends.

All of this information is contained in our stereotypes, but the source of the information is not always retained along with the memory. When I say “10th grade boys” your brain provides the stored information you have experienced, read about, heard, or obtained in some other way. The same is true if I were to say “Black teenage boys.”

While the ability to categorize according to stereotypes is a vitally important function of the brain, you don’t know how accurate any particular stereotype is.

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