Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Generalizations versus Stereotypes

What is the real difference between generalizations and stereotypes? I took these two definitions from dictionary.com.

Generalization - a proposition asserting something to be true either of all members of a certain class or of an indefinite part of that class.

Stereotype - an often oversimplified or biased mental picture held to characterize the typical individual of a group.

The only real difference I see is in our perception. Stereotypes are usually frowned upon, but generalizations are ok. When we look at our members, which are we making? Does it matter?

1 comment:

Jamie said...

The key word in the definitions is "biased." Stereotypes are biased. They are usually negative, but they are prejudiced--pre judged. There are cultural generalizations that distinguish ethnic group, but that is different from stereotypes, that add some kind of negative judgment.

So when it comes to members, are you making generalizations based on some kind of data? Are there studies that demonstrate that your members, or a subset of them, "tend to" act a certain way? Or do you already have that conclusion based on on something other than data. That my be a stereotype.

But either way, you can't apply them to individuals. Just because the group overall tends to do something, you still don't know if that individual in front of you will do it.