Prejudices and stereotypes

Prejudices and stereotypes are generally negative ideas that are held about a group of people.

The difference between prejudices and stereotypes is that prejudices are beliefs that we have about a person, based solely on the fact that they belong to a certain group, while stereotypes are the generalizations that we make about a group.

Both prejudices and stereotypes can shape individual and collective beliefs and promote discrimination in its various manifestations (social, racial, gender, etc.). In turn, prejudices and stereotypes can be of different types according to various variables (linguistic, social, gender, age, etc.).

DefinitionIdea or opinion about a person who makes up a group.Simplified representations about a group.
AppThey apply to one person.They apply to a group.
AssessmentThey can be positive or negative, but they are generally negative.They can be positive or negative, but they are generally negative.
componentsEmotional (anger, hostility, rejection).Cognitive (ideas validated with some data).
Examples“That person does not generate confidence in me. It is seen that he is very poor and at any moment he will steal something from me.”“Poor people are all criminals.”

What is a prejudice?

A prejudice is a preconceived idea, either positive or negative, that one has about an individual who is part of a group.

Prejudices, then, are individual conceptions lacking all the information necessary to have an objective opinion. Hence, they are biased and subjective judgments about a person or groups of people.

In addition, prejudices have an affective or emotional component, since they guide behavior based on what they think they know. As prejudices are generally negative, the affective component is often expressed with hostility, distrust and even hatred.

For example, someone is convinced that people of a certain nationality are scammers, even if they have no proof. If you come into contact with a person from that country, surely their behavior will become hostile, rude or avoidant, so as not to be a “victim” of a possible scam.

There are several types of prejudices, depending on whether they are based on social status, language, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Types of prejudice

Social prejudices

They are the preconceived ideas about a person belonging to a certain social class. Similarly, the belief that one class or social stratum is superior to another is a social prejudice called classism or class prejudice. Social prejudices can be in two ways: whoever is in a lower stratum may have biases against those who are in a higher stratum.

Examples : the belief that someone prosperous surely made a fortune illicitly or being hostile to a person in poverty because it is assumed that he has criminal intentions.

Linguistic biases

It is a belief based on the language (language) or linguistic variation that a person uses. A linguistic prejudice, then, is to believe that because someone does not speak in the same way that we are doing it wrong, they have some pronunciation or learning problem. It is also true to believe that there are languages ​​better than others, or easier to speak than others.

Example : believing that a person of Argentine nationality speaks badly because he says “t-shirt” instead of a shirt. That person is not misusing the language, he is speaking according to the linguistic variation of the Spanish language that exists in his country.

Disability-based biases

They are the beliefs about people who have a disability condition, and that are generally expressed with rejection attitudes, under the assumption that they are inferior to a person without disability.

Example : rejection or fear of people with Down Syndrome.

Gender biases

They are the biases that exist with respect to a certain gender. This type of prejudice attributes qualities, attitudes, roles and expectations to a person exclusively based on their gender, without considering other variables, thereby limiting their field of action and potential.

Example : assuming that the man has to carry out the physical tasks because the woman will not be able to do it. In this case, the bias is twofold: the quality of strength is attributed only to the man, while the quality of weakness is assigned to the woman.

Prejudices based on ethnic origin or nationality

These are beliefs rooted in the conception that a person is “superior” or “inferior” because he belongs to a certain culture or nationality. When these prejudices are negative, they lead to racism and xenophobia.

Examples : assume that English are punctual and expect that quality from any English. On the other hand, believing that people of African descent are criminals or could become criminals is a fairly common negative prejudice.

Religious prejudices

They are the ideas we have about someone because of their religious beliefs. That is, the negative qualities that are attributed to the believers of a religion or cult are transferred to a particular person only because they share the same belief. This type of prejudice gives rise to different forms of discrimination, such as Islamophobia or anti-Semitism.

Example : the attitude of rejection towards a Muslim man because it is assumed that he has fundamentalist or radical ideas.

Prejudices based on sexual orientation

They are the qualities that are attributed to someone due to their sexual orientation. Generally, these biases are negative and are directed towards the LGBTI community, generating forms of discrimination such as homophobia, and limiting their access to fundamental rights, such as the right to work, education or health.

Example : the aggressive treatment that same-sex couples often receive when they have expressions of affection in public places.

Age-based biases

They are the judgments and expectations associated with people based on their age. Although it is usually associated with discrimination against the elderly, since it is the most common form of expression, in reality this type of prejudice can reach anyone.

Examples : the idea that someone is physically or mentally weak or incompetent due to old age, or assuming that young people are rebellious or immature to take on certain responsibilities.

What is a stereotype

A stereotype is a simplification of the characteristics of a group of people, based on generalized beliefs. In general, stereotypes are created from a few qualities (positive or negative) that a group has in common, from which relationships of similarity are established with all the individuals that belong to that group.

Stereotypes are collective consensuses, since they are representations shared by a large number of people (family, community, society). In addition, they have a cognitive component, since this consensus is taken from justified and rationalized perceptions.

A common example of a stereotype is the media representation of Mexicans dressed as mariachis. The collective (society, the media) stereotypes them that way because the idea is rationalized that if the mariachi is something indigenous to that country, then the entire population can be identified in that way.

The simplifications that give rise to stereotypes vary depending on the type of group (social, linguistic, ethnic, religious, etc.), hence there are several types.

Types of stereotypes

Social stereotypes

They are the simplifications that are made on the social strata. These simplifications tend to magnify the possible negative traits of the less favored social classes and benefit the dominant social classes.

Example : the caricature of people living in poverty, who are usually represented with torn or dirty clothes, disheveled or without teeth. While the stereotypes of the highest strata frequently show young and attractive people.

Linguistic stereotypes

They are the generalizations that are made about a group, based on its linguistic features and almost always associated with a non-linguistic feature. This means, linking attitudes and behaviors of a group to the language (language) or variation of the language they speak.

Example : the associations that are made between the German language and the dry or little affective character of its speakers. The sounds that make up the German language can sound complicated or “rough” to those who are not familiar with them, and that’s where the association arises.

Stereotypes based on disabilities

They are the representations that are made regarding people with disabilities. These generalizations not only generate discrimination, but also have a direct impact on the planning of policies that can guarantee them access to their rights.

Examples : images or representations that show them as sick, useless, little capable people, without the possibility of emotional bonding or violent (in the case of psychiatric patients).

Gender stereotypes

They are the set of generalizations that are made about a group according to its gender. Based on this, it is assigned characteristics, behaviors, attitudes and expectations that are part of the social imaginary and are used to represent them.

Examples : representations of women as a housewife or caregiver, while men are represented as an authority figure, professional and with physical strength.

Stereotypes about ethnicity or nationality

They are the representations about a group based on its ethnic origin or nationality. These collective consensuses often encourage prejudice, by promoting the categorization of people according to their phenotypic characteristics or their place of origin.

Examples : the representation of Spaniards in the media as people who dance flamenco (in the case of women) or who dress as bullfighters (in the case of men).

Religious stereotypes

They are all generalizations regarding a group that professes a certain religion or belief. This gives rise to reductionist representations that usually attribute negative qualities to minority religious groups and positive qualities to the dominant group.

Examples: the representations of Muslims as terrorists and of Jews as greedy or usurers.

Stereotypes about sexual orientation

They are the set of social beliefs regarding what a group is like according to the sexual orientation of its members. In this case, the group is categorized based on characteristics such as way of dressing, speaking, use of certain colors, performance in certain professions or trades, etc.

Example : the caricature in the media of homosexual men, presenting them with feminine features and attitudes, especially for humorous purposes.

Age-based stereotypes

They are the whole set of social perceptions regarding the qualities, attitudes and behaviors expected according to the age group. And although age stereotypes have representations in different life stages, in Western societies negative qualities are almost always attributed to the stage of old age.

Example : representations that show the elderly in a passive role, forgetful, weak and alone.

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