Can We Prevent Stereotypes?

In my previous post I explored the historical beginning of stereotyping and some of the psychology which comes along with it. Now that beginning of stereotyping has been covered, there is another huge question to tackle: Can stereotyping be prevented? Since stereotyping has been around for a long time, it’s unfortunately inevitable. Tough we may not be able to completely prevent stereotypes, we can, with effort try to avoid creating them ourselves.

Stereotypes begin in childhood

During our youth, when our minds are the most malleable, books and television imprint irreversible stereotype onto our brains. Even Disney movies–many childs’ favorite–contain many various stereotypes, like the merchant in Aladdin. In a study, ABC’s “20/20” brought together three groups of kids and showed them pictures of two men — one Arab, the other Asian.

The children were asked which man they liked better, over and over, more kids said they preferred “the Chinese guy.”

Several children weighed in on the Arab man’s personality, basing their opinions on just seeing his picture. One child said, “I think he’s weird.” Another child said, “He’s like the scary dude.”

Next, “20/20” showed the kids pictures of a black man and white man. Some of the comments made by the children include the following.

One said, “He looks mean.” Another referred to him as “FBI’s Most Wanted.” Another commented, “He looks like he’s a basketball player.”

When the white man’s picture was shown, one child said, “He’s nice.” Another said, “I think he’s nice except he might be mad about something.”

The boy was probably picking up on something. The photo of a white man was of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Admittedly, the pictures were a little bit different, but when we asked which man is a criminal, most kids pointed to the black man. When we asked which man was a teacher, most pointed to McVeigh. This is ironic because the black man pictured was Harvard University professor Roland Fryer.

So, since stereotypes are part of us since childhood we cannot fully prevent them; we can however try avoiding them in the moment.

Ways to avoid stereotyping


1. Don’t be overly nice to the object of your stereotyping.
So, most people do not do this, but then others do. Certain people think that they can cover up inner stereotypes by being so nice to certain people of minority. For example, my friend Kim (Caucasian) once brought her friend Nicole (African-American) to the Vacation Bible School at her church. Kim had been a part of this church for a couple years and no one had formally introduced themselves to her. Yet, the first day she brought Nicole, some of her church members came right up and introduced themselves to Nicole and acted super friendly. This is still stereotyping. Purposefully treating others better because they are a minority covers the stereotype because if the stereotype were not there, everyone would be treated equally.

2. Learn to Recognize and Avoid Generalizations.
There are some stereotypes whose foundation is a generalization: all Christians hate gays, all French are snobs, etc. An easy tactic one can use to avoid these types of stereotype from happening is simply pausing in the moment before making a judgement and thinkCan this possibly be true for all cases? More likely than not, nothing is always true. Though the majority of a minority or social may have something in common, does not mean all of them do.

Though there are many more ways people everywhere can become more aware of stereotypes, these are a few. Overall the main tactic would be–take time and think.

One thought on “Can We Prevent Stereotypes?

  1. This is a great post! I definitely think that there are many stereotypes that are still in place today that need to be dissolved. I really like that you included possible remedies for these stereotypes!

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