Acceptance of stereotypes Dependence on stereotypes Group labels Labelling people Sociotypes
There is a tendency to identify individuals or groups with general, impersonal terms that allow one to simplify the process of trying to understand each individual as a separate entity. A stereotype is a mental picture of different groups, on the basis on which individuals are evaluated. People are "rightists", "vegetarians", "liberals" and so on, according to the group into which they most conveniently fall for the labeller. The catastrophe of this device is that it completely blocks for many people the possibility of ever knowing the other individual or group for the unrepeatable specificity that they are. One actually no longer experiences the other, but experiences only what the label leaves visible. One of course also gradually ceases to experience the self as well.
In its worst or most inaccurate form, a stereotype takes the form of a universal syllogism that prevents undifferentiated thinking and exceptions. For example, all white American males are unethical; John is a white American male; therefore John is unethical.
Stereotypes are an easy shorthand way of classifying the multitude of stimuli to which people are exposed. Without names for the realities human beings experience there would be no way of recalling the experience. There would be no history and no future. The issue is not stereotyping itself, but whether the stereotypes are accurate. Names, to give an alternative label to this problem and therefore a different meaning, are necessary to relate to experiences, they imply significance about the experience. No one can understand everyone they meet or hear about as a separate entity, people have friends and neighbours, other labels. It is legitimate and helpful to use stereotypes if they are descriptive rather than evaluative, the first best guess, based on data and observations, and subject to change when new information merits it.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
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