Related on TestTube:
Why You May be a Bigot and Not Know It
How Our Brains Force Us to Stereotype
Each week on TestTubePlus, we cover one topic from multiple angles. This week, we are covering stereotypes: why do they exist, why does it seem so hard to get rid of them, and how did they become such a big part of who we are? So far, Trace has discussed how our brains are wired to stereotype, how video games enforce them, and how we may believe certain stereotypes without even knowing it. Today: Can having stereotypes actually protect us?
We start by looking at what science has to say about stereotypes. An advantage of a stereotype is that it can enable us to respond much quicker to a situation because we may have had a similar experience in the past. At its most basic form stereotyping is simply a way to efficiently categorize information so that it can be more easily identified, recalled, predicted, and reacted to. It's an ingrained function of our brains that frees up processing power and cuts down on the sheer quantity of data that we are constantly bombarded with.
According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, the director of the Media Psychology Research Center, "Stereotyping is a way of processing information. It's a way to take something that's not familiar and put it in your brain next to something that makes sense." Is it wrong for a person to be more inclined to get a ride with Lyft ride over Uber after reading a few articles of bad press against a few individual Uber drivers? You probably said, "No" in your heads just now.
But when stereotyping moves into the broader socio-cultural arena, we see it as synonymous with racism or discrimination. To keep ourselves thinking a little more politically correct we try to actively go against our nature to stereotype. Most of the time this is a good thing. People shouldn't be pigeonholed because individuals are complex and won't always conform to preconceived generic stereotypes.
Daniel Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics said, "Resistance to stereotyping is a laudable moral position, but the simplistic idea that the resistance is costless is wrong. The costs are worth paying to achieve a better society, but denying that the costs exist, while satisfying to the soul and politically correct, is not scientifically defensible."
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Where Bias Begins: The Truth About Stereotypes (Psychology Today)
"Psychologists once believed that only bigoted people used stereotypes. Now the study of unconscious bias is revealing the unsettling truth: We all use stereotypes, all the time, without knowing it. We have met the enemy of equality, and the enemy is us."
Figure of the Stereotyping Network (Nature.com)
"Neural structures that underlie components of intergroup stereotyping. Semantic information stored in the lateral temporal lobe - especially representations of stereotype-related knowledge about people and social groups in the anterior temporal lobe (ATL) - is recruited into the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to support the formation of impressions (that is, stereotypes) and, in conjunction, into the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) to support goal-directed actions that are guided by these stereotypes."
Your brain on stereotypes and brand identities (The Brain Alchemist)
"What comes to mind when you read the following list: 'Emigrant Savings Bank, Dakota Roadhouse, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Starbucks, Equinox, Club Remix, Bank of New York, Shinjuku Sushi, New York City Law Department, Amish Market'?
How about this one: 'Ground Zero Mosque'?"
The Power of Categories (NPR.org)
"Alix and Lulu examine how categories define us - how, if given a chance, humans will jump into one category or another. People need them, want them. This show looks at what categories provide for us."