Stereotype Explained

For other uses see Stereotype (disambiguation).

A stereotype is a preconceived idea that attributes certain characteristics (in general) to all the members of class or set. The term is often used with a negative connotation when referring to an oversimplified, exaggerated, or demeaning assumption that a particular individual possesses the characteristics associated with the class due to his or her membership in it. Stereotypes can be used to deny individuals respect or legitimacy based on their membership in that group.

Stereotypes often form the basis of prejudice and are usually employed to explain real or imaginary differences due to race, gender, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic class, disability, occupation, etc. A stereotype can be a conventional and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image based on the belief that there are attitudes, appearances, or behaviors shared by all members of a group. Stereotypes are forms of social consensus rather than individual judgments. Stereotypes are sometimes formed by a previous illusory correlation, a false association between two variables that are loosely correlated if correlated at all. Stereotypes may be occasionally positive.

The term "stereotype" derives from Greek στερεός (stereos) "solid, firm"[1] + τύπος (tupos) "blow, impression, engraved mark"[2] hence "solid impression".The term, in its modern psychology sense, was first used by Walter Lippmann in his 1922 work Public Opinion[3] although in the printing sense it was first coined 1798.


Sociologists believe that mental categorizing is necessary and inescapable. One perspective on how to understand stereotyping process is through the categories or ingroups and outgroups. Ingroups are viewed as normal and superior, and are generally the group that one associates with or aspires to join. An outgroup is simply all the other groups. They are seen as lesser or inferior than the ingroups.

A second perspective is that of automatic and implicit or subconscious and conscious. Automatic or subconscious stereotyping is that which everyone does without noticing. Automatic stereotyping is quickly preceded by an implicit or conscious check which permits time for any needed corrections. Automatic stereotyping is affected by implicit stereotyping because frequent conscious thoughts will quickly develop into subconscious stereotypes.

A third method to categorizing stereotypes is general types and sub-types. Stereotypes consist of hierarchical systems consisting of broad and specific groups being the general types and sub-types respectively. A general type could be defined as a broad stereotype typically known among many people and usually widely accepted, whereas the sub-group would be one of the several groups making up the general group. These would be more specific, and opinions of these groups would vary according to differing perspectives.

One reason people stereotype is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people. Even though stereotyping is inaccurate, it is efficient. Categorization is an essential human capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once one has sorted and organized everyone into tidy categories, there is every incentive to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual. Assigning general group characteristics to members of that group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world.

People also tend to stereotype because of another the need to feel good about oneself. Stereotypes protect one from anxiety and enhance self-esteem. By designating one’s own group as the standard or normal group and assigning others to groups considered inferior or abnormal, it provides one with a sense of worth.

Childhood influences are some of the most complex and influential factors in developing stereotypes. Though they can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Once a stereotype is learned, it often becomes self-perpetuating.

Many scientific theories have derived from the sociological studies of stereotyping and prejudicial thinking. During the early studies it was believed or suggested that stereotypes were only used by rigid, repressed, and authoritarian people. Sociologists concluded that this was a result of conflict, poor parenting, and inadequate mental and emotional development. They now know differently. Scientist and theorists have concluded that stereotypes do not only exist, but are actually a never ending chain of thoughts.

Certain circumstances can affect the way an individual stereotypes. For instance: Studies have shown that women stereotype more negatively than men, and that women read into appearance more than men. Some theorists argue in favor of the conceptual connection and that one’s own subjective thought about someone is sufficient information to make assumptions about that individual. Other theorists argue that at minimum there must be a casual connection between mental states and behavior to make assumptions or stereotypes. Thus results and opinions may vary according to circumstance and theory. Stereotyping is principally theory and is not based much on factual evidence. An example of a common, incorrect assumption is that of assuming certain internal characteristics based on external appearance. The explanation for one’s actions is his or her internal state (goals, feeling, personality, traits, motives, values, and impulses), not his or her appearance.

Sociologist Charles E. Hurst of the College of Wooster states that, “One reason for stereotypes is the lack of personal, concrete familiarity that individuals have with persons in other racial or ethnic groups. Lack of familiarity encourages the lumping together of unknown individuals” [4] Groups which enjoy fewer social and economic advantages will be stereotyped in a way which helps explain and justify disparities, such as lower employment rates. Although disadvantaged group members may have greater difficulty finding employment due to in-group favoritism, racism, and related social forces, the disadvantaged group member is unjustifiably characterized as 'unmotivated' (he could find a job if he looked hard enough), 'unintelligent' (he's not smart enough to have that job), and 'lazy' (he would rather take hand-outs than work).

Stereotypes focus upon and thereby exaggerate differences between groups. Competition between groups minimizes similarities and magnifies differences.[6] This makes it seem as if groups are very different when in fact they may be more alike than different. For example, among African Americans, identity as an American citizen is more salient than racial background; that is, African Americans are more American than African.[7] Yet within American culture, Black and White Americans are increasingly seen as completely different groups.

Effects, accuracy, terminology

See main article: Stereotype threat. Stereotypes can have a negative and positive impact on individuals. Joshua Aronson and Claude M. Steele have done research on the psychological effects of stereotyping, particularly its effect on African-Americans and women.[8] They argue that psychological research has shown that competence is highly responsive to situation and interactions with others.[9] They cite, for example, a study which found that bogus feedback to college students dramatically affected their IQ test performance, and another in which students were either praised as very smart, congratulated on their hard work, or told that they scored high. The group praised as smart performed significantly worse than the others. They believe that there is an 'innate ability bias'. These effects are not just limited to minority groups. Mathematically competent white males, mostly math and engineering students, were asked to take a difficult math test. One group was told that this was being done to determine why Asians were scoring better. This group performed significantly worse than the other group.[9]

Possible prejudicial effects of stereotypes are:

The effects of stereotyping can fluctuate, but for the most part they are negative, and not always apparent until long periods of time have passed. Over time, some victims of negative stereotypes display self-fulfilling prophecy behavior, in which they assume that the stereotype represents norms to emulate. Negative effects may include forming inaccurate opinions of people, scapegoating, erroneously judgmentalism, preventing emotional identification, distress, and impaired performance. Stereotyping painfully reminds those being judged of how society views them.

Sometimes "stereotype" and "prejudice" are confused. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups, based on some prior assumptions. Stereotypes are created based on some idea of abstract familiarity. Prejudices are more specific - they are predispositions to differential behavior patterns.

Role in art and culture

Stereotypes are common in various cultural media, where they take the form of dramatic stock characters. These characters are found in the works of playwright Bertolt Brecht, Dario Fo, and Jacques Lecoq, who characterize their actors as stereotypes for theatrical effect. In commedia dell'Arte this is similarly common. The instantly recognizable nature of stereotypes mean that they are effective in advertising and situation comedy. These stereotypes change, and in modern times only a few of the stereotyped characters shown in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress would be recognizable.

In literature and art, stereotypes are clichéd or predictable characters or situations. Throughout history, storytellers have drawn from stereotypical characters and situations, in order to connect the audience with new tales immediately. Sometimes such stereotypes can be sophisticated, such as Shakespeare's Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Arguably a stereotype that becomes complex and sophisticated ceases to be a stereotype per se by its unique characterization. Thus while Shylock remains politically unstable in being a stereotypical Jew, the subject of prejudicial derision in Shakespeare's era, his many other detailed features raise him above a simple stereotype and into a unique character, worthy of modern performance. Simply because one feature of a character can be categorized as being typical does not make the entire character a stereotype.

Despite their proximity in etymological roots, cliché and stereotype are not used synonymously in cultural spheres. For example a cliché is a high criticism in narratology where genre and categorization automatically associates a story within its recognizable group. Labeling a situation or character in a story as typical suggests it is fitting for its genre or category. Whereas declaring that a storyteller has relied on cliché is to pejoratively observe a simplicity and lack of originality in the tale. To criticize Ian Fleming for a stereotypically unlikely escape for James Bond would be understood by the reader or listener, but it would be more appropriately criticized as a cliché in that it is overused and reproduced. Narrative genre relies heavily on typical features to remain recognizable and generate meaning in the reader/viewer.

The teen sitcom, Saved By The Bell features a typical group of high school stereotypes such as a class clown (Zack Morris), a jock (A.C. Slater), a nerd (Samuel "Screech" Powers), a cheerleader (Kelly Kapowski), a feminist (Jessie Spano), and a superficial fashion plate (Lisa Turtle). Some observed the sitcom, like many teen sitcoms of that time, in addition to stereotyping people, stereotyping an institution itself, that of high school. TV stereotypes of high schools have often promoted a "typical American school" as football games, fashion styles, skirt chasing, and not much devotion to academics or studying.

In movies and TV the halo effect is often used. This is when, for example, attractive men and women are assumed to be happier, stronger, nicer people, explained by Greenwald and Banaji from Psychological Review.

Racial and ethnic stereotyping

Native Americans

See also: Stereotypes of Native Americans.

In the United States, the stratification and separation of groups, especially racial minorities, began in the nation’s earliest years of colonization. With the colonists’ first contact with the Native Americans, the stereotype of “the savage” was born.[4] They were first thought of as "noble savages" by the European because of their ability to subsist on the land. Over time, as colonists spread west, Natives American were seen as obstacles and their image became more negative. Native Americans were portrayed in popular media as wild, primitive, uncivilized, dangerous people who continuously attack white settlers, cowboys, and stagecoaches and ululate while holding one hand in front of their mouths. They speak invariably in a deep voice and use stop words like "How" and "Ugh". In cartoons, comic strips and animated cartoons their skin color was depicted as deep red. In westerns and other media portrayals they are usually called "Indians". Examples of this stereotypical image of Native Americans can be found in many American westerns until the early 1960s and cartoons like Peter Pan. In other stereotypes, they smoked peace pipes, wore face paints, danced round totem poles (often with a hostage tied to them), sent smoke signals, lived in teepees, wore feathered headdresses, scalped their foes, and said 'um' instead of 'the' or 'a'.

As colonization continued in the US, groups were separated into categories like “Christians” and “heathens” and “civilized” and “savage”.[4] It took merely decades for these attitudes and ideas to firmly plant themselves in the minds of Americans; today’s stereotypes of Native Americans are rooted in the colonists’ initial thoughts. The media perpetuates these stereotypes by portraying Native Americans in a negative light, such as savage and hostile.[4] Many Whites view Native Americans as devoid of self-control and unable to handle responsibility. Malcolm D. Holmes and Judith A. Antell hypothesize that such ideas about Native Americans form the ideology that is used today to justify the disparity between Whites and Native Americans.[10] This very rigid, fixed framework on the perception of Native Americans and other stereotypical depictions of other races and nationalities has been continued in many books, films, cartoons, comic strips, plays and songs. Today, the 19th century stereotype of Native Americans lives on for the majority of people. Modern Native Americans as they live today are rarely portrayed in popular culture, one notable exception being Chief from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

However, there are more positive images, of Native Americans being noble, peaceful people, who lived in harmony with nature and each other, e.g. Dances with Wolves.

Inuit stereotypes

Inuit or Eskimo people are always dressed in parkas, carving out trinkets, living in igloos, go fishing with an harpoon, travel by sleigh and huskies, eat cod-liver oil and the men are usually called Nanook in reference to the famous documentary Nanook of the North. Eskimo children usually have a seal for a best friend. Eskimoes are often believed to have an unusually large number of words for snow. This is however an urban legend. Eskimoes are sometimes shown rubbing each other noses together as some sort of greeting ritual (Eskimo kissing) They're also often depicted surrounded by polar bears, walrusses and inaccurately penguins. Penguins only live on the South Pole and not on the North Pole. Sometimes Eskimoes themselves are depicted living on the South Pole, which is again wrong for the same reason.

Black stereotypes

See also: Stereotypes of African Americans.

Early stereotypes

In centuries before and during the first half of the 20th century black people were often depicted as dumb, evil, lazy, poor, animalistic, smelly, uncivilized, un-Christian [4] people. The early British colonists brought these initial thoughts with them to the US. White colonists commonly believed that black people were inferior to white people. These thoughts helped to justify black slavery and the institution of many laws that continually condoned inhumane treatment and perpetuated to keep black people in a lower socioeconomic position. [4] . Black people were usually depicted as slaves or servants, working in cane fields or carrying large piles of cotton. They were often portrayed as devout Christians going to church and singing gospel music. In many vaudeville shows, minstrel acts, cartoons, comics and animated cartoons of this period they were depicted as sad, lazy, dim-witted characters with big lips who sing bluesy songs and are good dancers, but get excited when confronted with dice games, chickens or watermelons (examples: all the characters portrayed by Stepin Fetchit and black characters in cartoons like "Sunday Go to Meetin' Time" and "All This and Rabbit Stew"). A more joyful black image, yet still very stereotypical, was provided by eternally happy black characters like Uncle Tom, Uncle Remus and Louis Armstrong's equally joyous stage persona. Another popular stereotype from this era was the black who is scared of ghosts (and usually turns white out of fear). Butlers were sometimes portrayed as black (for example the butler in many Shirley Temple movies). Housemaids were usually depicted as black, heavy-set middleaged women who dress in large skirts (examples of this type are Mammy Two-Shoes, Aunt Jemima, Beulah and more recently the title character of Big Momma's House). Children are often pickaninnies like Little Black Sambo and Golliwogg. Black jive (dialect) was also often used in comedy, like for instance in the show Amos 'n Andy.

African black people were usually depicted as primitive, childlike, cannibalistic persons who live in tribes, carry spears, believe in witchcraft and worship their wizard. White colonists are depicted tricking them by selling junk in exchange for valuable things and/or scaring them with modern technology. A well-known example of this image is Tintin in Africa. When white people are caught by African tribes they are usually put in a large, black cauldron so they can be cooked and eaten. Sometimes black Africans are depicted as pygmies with childlike behavior so that they can be ridiculed as being similar to children. Other stereotypical images are the male black African dressed in lip plates or with a bone sticking through his nasal septum. Stereotypical female black African depictions include the bare breasted woman with large breasts and notably fat buttocks (examples of this stereotype are the 19th century sideshow attraction Saartjie Baartman and Robert Crumb's comic strip character Angelfood McSpade) or the woman who wears multiple rings around her giraffe-like neck (note: this type of neck ornament is also common in Burma with women from the Kayan tribe, but is generally associated with Africa (like in the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Which Is Witch").

Secretary of State John C. Calhoun arguing for the extension of slavery in 1844 said "Here (scientific confirmation) is proof of the necessity of slavery. The African is incapable of self-care and sinks into lunacy under the burden of freedom. It is a mercy to give him the guardianship and protection from mental death."

Even after slavery ended the intellectual capacity of Black people was still frequently questioned. Lewis Terman wrote in The Measurement of Intelligence in 1916:

"(Black and other ethnic minority children) are uneducable beyond the nearest rudiments of training. No amount of school instruction will ever make them intelligent voters or capable citizens in the sense of the world…their dullness seems to be racial, or at least inherent in the family stock from which they come…Children of this group should be segregated in special classes and be given instruction which is concrete and practical. They cannot master abstractions, but they can be made efficient workers…There is no possibility at present of convincing society that they should not be allowed to reproduce, although from a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their unusual prolific breeding.)"

Modern black stereotypes

See also: Acting white.

Since the 1960s the stereotypical image of black people has changed in some media. More positive depictions appeared where black people and African-Americans are portrayed as great athletes and superb singers and dancers. In many films and television series since the 1970s black people are depicted as good natured, kind, honest and intelligent persons. Often they are the best friend of the white protagonist (examples: Miami Vice, Lethal Weapon, Magnum Force). Some critics believed this political correctness lead to another stereotypical image where black people are often depicted too positive. 1989 showed that blacks were more likely than whites to be described in demeaning intellectual terms.[11] Political activist and one-time presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson said in 1985 that the news media portray blacks as less intelligent than we are.[12] Film director Spike Lee explains that these images have negative impacts. "In my neighborhood, we looked up to athletes, guys who got the ladies, and intelligent people,".

Even so-called positive images of Black people can lead to stereotypes about intelligence. In Darwin's Athletes: how sport has damaged Black America and preserved the myth of race, John Hoberman writes that the prominence of African-American athletes encourages a de-emphasis on academic achievement in black communities.[13] In a 1997 study on racial stereotypes in sports, participants were shown a photograph of a white or a black basketball player. They then listened to a recorded radio broadcast of a basketball game. White photographs were rated as exhibiting significantly more intelligence in the way they played the game, even though the radio broadcast and target player represented by the photograph were the same throughout the trial.[14] Several other authors have said that sports coverage that highlights 'natural black athleticism' has the effect of suggesting white superiority in other areas, such as intelligence.[15] Patricia J. Williams, writer for The Nation, said this of Jar Jar Binks, a character from the 1999 and 2002 Star Wars films The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, respectively: "...intentionally or not, Jar Jar's pratfalls and high jinks borrow heavily from the genre of minstrelsy. Despite the amphibian get-up, his manchild-like idiocy is imported directly from the days of Amos 'n' Andy." Many aspects of Jar Jar's character are believed to be highly reminiscent of the archetypes portrayed in blackface minstrelsy.[16])

North African, Middle Eastern and Muslim stereotypes

See also: Stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims and Western stereotypes of West and Central Asians. General ignorance in American, Australian and European Cultures has led to the conflation of the different identities implied by Arab, North African and Muslim. The resulting stereotype is often depicted as fanatical, out on the kill and shouting or chanting gibberish with many "ch-"sounds (Ironically, there is no "ch" sound in Arabic). Their noses, mustaches and beards are often exaggerated in caricature. Popular images are the Muslim flying on a carpet, climbing on an erect rope, riding a camel, drawing out daggers or sabres, ululating, or sitting in a tent smoking a water pipe. Arabic people are often depicted as rich oil sheiks with sunglasses and a turban (often mocked by comedians as being a towel or a diaper) on their head. Women are dressed in burkas and often carry a vase on their head. Young Arab or Turkish women are often shown as belly dancers. Since the 1970s and especially since the September 11, 2001 attacks the negative depiction of Arab and Middle Eastern people as terrorists has increased throughout the world. In many Western countries they are seen as uneducated, fanatic, aggressive, criminal, antisemitic, misogynistic and dangerous people who don't work but live on government funding, slaughter sheep in their kitchens, have many children and plot to take over the world. Many far right parties and organizations use this stereotypical image for propaganda uses. Just like Indian or Pakistani people, Arabic people are often depicted as shopkeepers or managers of supermarkets. An example of stereotyping is offered by the town of Herouxville in Quebec, Canada. A declaration issued by the town in January 2007, which was designed to inform immigrants, "that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here [i.e. Herouxville]". It then went on to state that the immigrant population would therefore have to refrain from their cultural norms and activities such as to "kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them, etc."[17]

Indian, Pakistani, Hindu and other South Asian stereotypes

See also: Stereotypes of South Asians.

Indians and other South Asians are often depicted as shopkeepers, taxi drivers, supermarket store clerks, gurus, snake charmers etc. They are shown riding on elephants, worshiping cows, watching Bollywood movies, and eating hot spices and curry. Women are dressed in sari. Another popular image is the near-naked fakir, hypnotist or illusionist who can stick knives in his body, fly on a carpet, climb on an erect rope, walk barefoot on burning coals, refuses all food, levitates, meditates, remains underground with his head or body and sit or sleep on a bed of nails. A famous example of a Indian stereotype is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. However, modern day Indian Americans are often stereotyped as either software programmers or students. In the US the stereotypical Gujaratis run motels, Punjabis drive cabs and South Indians work in the IT arena.

East Asian stereotypes

See also: Stereotypes of East and Southeast Asians in the United States.

Non-Asian people often refer to all people of South East Asian descent as "Chinese", even if they were not born there. A usual target when referring to South East Asian people are their typical eyes, often ridiculed as "slant eyes", "slitty eyes" and often imitated by people of a different race by stretching their eyes with both index fingers to resemble South East Asian eyes. From this stereotype another stereotype is derived: their supposed lack of peripheral vision (which attributes to yet another stereotype: their "bad driving") Other common stereotypical behaviour associated with South East Asians are for instance: being intelligent in mathematics, being unsociable, being martial art experts, obedient women, speaking in aphorisms and replacing the letters "l" and "r" with each other (although Mandarin and Cantonese distinguish these sounds). Western stereotypes often associate China with Japan claiming that they are "similar" or "identical". China is often mixed with Japan in Western views, such as showing ninjas and shuriken as Chinese and implying that Kung fu and Ninjitsu are the same thing. Pagodas are also stereotypical of Asian cultures.

Since the end of the 19th century South East Asia has been viewed with fear in Western culture. The term "Yellow Peril" derives from this period. During the 1930s and World War II when Japan started invading South East Asia this fear only rose and many Western propaganda from this period (for example cartoons like "Tokio Jokio" and "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips") depicted Japanese people as evil by nature. After the war this image remained vivid in Western popular culture. In early albums of the Belgian comic strip series Blake and Mortimer and Buck Danny Asians were still often depicted as dangerous villains. When China became a Communist country in 1949 Western culture feared that the numerous population of the country who increase the spread of Communism throughout the world. From this period stems the caricature of the Chinese dressed in Party uniform, shouting or reading aloud from Mao's Red Book. Even after Mao's death, when China became more Western there is still fear in some Western people's minds for China's enormous economical growth. Japan's economical growth since 1955 has met with similar receptions.

Old Asian people are often depicted as extremely wise, bearded men who speak in aphorisms and are forever trying to calm down their young, enthusiastic students (an example of this stereotype is the martial master in Karate Kid). Young East Asian women are also depicted as being attractive and working as exotic dancers, masseuses and manicurists. East Asian cuisine is stereotyped, as well; Japan is known for seafood, such as sushi, fish eggs and whales. Chinese delicacies like thousand-year-old egg and bird nest soup are well-known among Westerners, and Koreans are said to favour kimchi and dog meat.

Chinese stereotypes

Chinese people have often been portrayed in the media as rice eating, grinning people who have long queues, wear "douli" on their heads and walk around with their hands hidden in long robes. They usually mutter gibberish with many words that rhyme on "-ng"-sounds. Sometimes Chinese people have been depicted with buck teeth (like the character Mr. Yunioshi) and long fingernails. Especially in late 19th century and early to mid 20th century Western popular culture Chinese people were always depicted as if they were still in the Middle Ages, with robes and clothes that resemble Confucius. A popular stereotype was the evil Chinese villain who always had a beard and/or a long moustache, grinning with an evil laugh and bowing forward while putting his fingertops together. Usually this Chinese villain was extremely intelligent, dangerous and sometimes insane. He often practiced Ancient Chinese torture techniques such as slow slicing and the Chinese water torture. Example of this Chinese villain stereotype are Fu Manchu, Li Shoon and Dr. No. The female counterpart of this character was the Dragon Lady. A more gentle stereotype is the Chinese doctor or pharmacist who uses strange rituals, drinks and techniques to cure his patient. In westerns Chinese people were often depicted as proprietors of laundries or opium kits. Other old stereotypes associated with China are throwing babies in the river (as famously debunked in The Blue Lotus), women wearing tiny shoes (See: foot binding), litting fireworks, walking behind each other dressed as a Chinese dragon, playing Go (game), Mahjong or ping pong, meditating, practicing acupuncture, philosophising, drinking Chinese tea, having bonzai trees and porcelain, eating rice, bird nests (actually bird nest soup) and dogs.

Japanese stereotypes

See also: Japanese stereotypes. Japanese people are often represented as extremely polite, intelligent, and obedient but disliking of foreigners. They bow extensively and are very good business people. Their stop words are: "honourable", "regrettable" and "please" (usually spoken in an Engrish accent). Other Japanese stereotypes are the geisha, the sumo wrestler, the samurai, the martial arts expert, the cute, sexy girl in school uniform, and the Japanese tourist who uses his film camera or photo camera to film or photograph everything in sight. Japanese people are often depicted as tiny men in black suits who often wear glasses. In modern American pop culture Japanese cartoons (anime) are often ridiculed as being violent and minimalistically animated with characters who simply freeze in one position while a vague background goes by. Japanese monster movies (in reference to Godzilla and Gamera) are often ridiculed as being surrealistic and full of bad, cheap special effects like for instance men wearing rubber monster suits. Well known stereotypical Japanese characters are Noodle, Akira, Gogo Yubari and Hiro Nakamura.

During the Second World War, Japanese people, in particular the soldiers, were shown in the Western World as having thick glasses, and sticking-out teeth. Their flag was usually on many objects.

In China and South Korea, Japanese men are often represented as hairy men whose body hairs are thick, and Japanese women are often represented as lustful women with huge breasts.

White stereotypes

See also: Stereotypes of White people. The social definition of "White" has changed over the years, and several White groups have at times been portrayed by the media as unintelligent. This includes ethnic groups such as Irish and Slavs.[18]

White American stereotypes

Especially in European countries, Americans are stereotyped as brash, ignorant, self-important, unintelligent, decadent, prudish on sexual matters, and obese. The image of the obese American could be due to perception of the American diet, such as the popularity and global spread of American fast food franchises such as McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, which has fueled America's obesity crisis.[19] Another popular American stereotype is the cowboy, the overconfident cigar chomping business man (see for instance Tintin in America, where both stereotypes are present) and the ignorant tourist couple who has no interest or respect for authentic culture (see for instance the American tourist couples depicted in the Fawlty Towers episode "Waldorf Salad", Monty Python's Meaning of Life and Flushed Away). After World War II the countries who were freed from their oppressors were very positive about the US and gladly embraced American products like Coca Cola, chewing gum and Hollywood films. This international positive American image changed drastically during the 1960s and 1970s at the height of the Vietnam War. Since then Americans are seen globally in a more negative light as arrogant, gung-ho, ruthless, imperialistic, capitalistic warmongers and destroyers of authentic international cultures and the natural environment. This negative stereotypical image has remained intact over the years, also due to negative foreign news or documentary reports that often show Americans who are either racist, obese, supporters of wars in foreign countries, gun crazy, obsessed with God and Jesus, reacting against sex or nudity in the media and extremely paranoid of terrorist attacks. In recent years, some stereotypes of whites living in the rural Western United States have emerged. Although these stereotypes show some similarities with southern redneck stereotypes, they are unique, usually revolving around cowboy culture, survivalism, or Mormonism. One stereotype is the shotgun-toting, antisocial, fundamentalist conspiracy theorist who lives in a wooden shack and fears outsiders. He is typically waiting and preparing for some sort of apocalyptic event involving the Antichrist and/or a government that attempts to dismantle the constitution. This stereotype is likely the result of various incidents during the 1990's.

In the US itself white people from the Southern states are frequently used as comic characters. They are depicted as angry and/or dimwitted rednecks and/or yokels who are ultraconservative, devoutly religious, Ku Klux Klan members, still carry the Confederate Flag around, grab their guns when encountering strangers and speak in a typical slang. Sometimes incest relations between them and their siblings are suggested. Examples of these stereotypes are Cletus Spuckler, The Beverly Hillbillies, several characters in the films Deliverance and O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Family Guy episode "To Love and Die in Dixie".

A lot of these American stereotypes are based on American sitcoms where characters like Al Bundy and Archie Bunker are seen as representative for the typical dumb, cultureless white American. There are many other examples throughout the media, but the classic example is Homer Simpson, the obese, lazy and dim-witted middle American from the cartoon, The Simpsons.[20] The show itself parodies many aspects of American life, culture and society.[21]

English stereotypes

The English people are stereotyped as inordinately proper, imperialistic, phlegmatic, polite and sophisticated, yet obsessed with class and social status and curiously convinced of their own superiority. In many countries, especially on the European continent, they are seen as incredibly awful cooks, something that has been spoofed in Asterix in Britain. In the United States English people are often depicted as having bad teeth (for instance in the Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield", the Family Guy episode "One If by Clam, Two If by Sea" and the film ).[22] A common English stereotype is the upper class man dressed in bowler hat and black suit who always carries an umbrella and believes in tradition and the monarchy.

Scottish stereotypes

Scots are often depicted as dour, thrifty, grouchy red bearded people who are dressed in kilts and play bagpipes. They drink scotch whisky and eat haggis. They are sometimes depicted playing golf or participating in the Highland Games and invariably have names starting with "Mac". Stereotypical words used are "aye", "laddie", "wee" and a strong emphasis on the letter "r". Examples of stereotypical Scottish people are Groundskeeper Willie and Fat Bastard.

Welsh stereotypes

Welsh people are often regarded as stoic, if somewhat dull people with rare talents when it comes to singing and an obsession with rugby union. The Welsh are often shown as being a nation of druids, Arthurian legends and coal miners - insular, and unwelcoming to the English but kindly to other nationalities. They are also known for their food and ability to hold their liquor. They are also known for showing great courage in the face of overwhelming odds and attacking with great ferocity. They are often portrayed as being fiercely proud of their Celtic heritage and posess an inferiority complex against the English. They are often portrayed as having sexual relationships with sheep due to Wales being primarily agricultural, which has led to the term "Sheepshagger". They are predominately shown with the "sing song" accent of the South Wales valleys though this one of the least common accents. The Welsh language is often mocked and made to sound nonsenical.

Irish stereotypes

An analysis of nineteenth-century British attitudes by Mary J. Hickman and Bronwen Walter wrote that the 'Irish Catholic' was one viewed as an "other", or a different race in the construction of the British nationalist myth (of course this view no longer exists in any way today). Likewise, the Irish considered the English "other" and fought hard to break away and create their own homeland, which they finally did in the 1920s. [23]

One 19th century British cartoonist even depicted Irish immigrants as ape-like and as racially different. One American doctor in the 1850s James Redfield, argued that "facial angle" was a sign of intelligence and character. He likened the facial characteristics of the human races to animals. Thus Irishmen resembled dogs, Yankees were like bears, Germans like lions, Negroes like elephants and Englishmen like bulls..[24] In the 20th century physical stereotypes survived in the comic books until the 1950s, with Irish characters like Mutt and Jeff, and Jiggs and Maggie appearing daily in hundreds of newspapers. [25]

Australian stereotypes

Australian stereotypes are represented as being unsophisticated and obsessed with beer, surfing, boomerangs and kangaroos. Australian men are often shown as being macho and misogynistic brutes, while Australian women are often portrayed as being the attractive blond-haired surfer girl with a sexy accent. Almost all Australians from outside the east coast cities are depicted as rough, almost redneck people with a distrust for strangers, and their men are always unshaven 'Crocodile Dundee' types.

Dutch stereotypes

The Netherlands are often referred to as "Holland", while this is actually a province in the country itself. Dutchmen and women are often depicted wearing clogs, carrying cheese and walking around in tulip fields with many wind mills and cows in the background. Huge dikes protect them from floods, as depicted in the popular story about Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, which is in fact an American story and not a real life Dutch incident. A more modern day view of the Netherlands depicts the people as drug addicts who smoke joints while Dutch streets are full of brothels and prostitutes. This modern stereotype view is based on the Dutch having more liberal attitudes towards soft drugs, sexuality and prostitution of the country in comparison with other countries, and because of this, several media productions (ex. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) have portrayed tourists from other nations going to the Netherlands to indulge in these services. In Europe, Dutch people are often depicted as being arrogant know-it-alls who are thrifty about money. They are also known for being ubiquitous tourists, and having a penchant for caravans.

French stereotypes

French people are often depicted as curly moustached people wearing berets, striped shirts and carrying baguettes under the arm. They can also more negatively be depicted as being arrogant and rude to foreigners. On the other hand, they are often in popular media as being romantic, seductive and excellent cooks.

German stereotypes

Since World War I and World War II Germans are often depicted negatively as militaristic, racist, antisemitic and war mongering. In popular culture they often wear pickelhauben or Stahlhelms, walk in Goose-step and obey orders at all costs ("Befehl ist Befehl."). German women are sometimes depicted as strict and dominant females with their hair pulled back into a tight bun.

Other stereotypical German characters are based on German folk traditions. In popular culture German men are often shown wearing Tyrolean hats and lederhosen, while the women have braids and wear dirndls. Usually they are celebrating Oktoberfest, playing the tuba and drinking beer from large steins.

More positive depictions of Germans, yet still very stereotypical, can be found in the numerous absent-minded professors, mad scientists and extremely serious psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, composers, and conductors found in popular culture, inspired by Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.

Scandinavian and Nordic stereotypes

Scandinavian stereotypes stem essentially from two core sources. The first stereotype is derived from the Vikings, the second, more modern, from Sweden's liberal attitudes toward sex.

Italian stereotypes

Italian people have evolved a diverse range of stereotypes, like the opera singer, ice cream or fruit salesman, mafiosi, cook, devout Roman-Catholic, the painter, the sculptor and the fashion designer. Italians are also associated with cooking food with lots of pasta and tomatoes, like spaghetti, pizza, macaroni, and ravioli. The homely mother or grandmother ("the nonna") who enjoys cooking for her family is often used in advertising.

A negative stereotype derives from Italy's association with the mafia. Gangster movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas, Mean Streets have further emphasized this association.

Slavic Eastern European and Russian stereotypes

Slavic Eastern European and Russian stereotypes usually depicted these nationalities as harsh, miserable, poor peasants or workers. Men have moustaches/beards and carry bearskin hats and women babushkas. Many of these stereotypes still date back to the Cold War era and Dracula movies, who are often set in Romania. Before (and long after) the Russian Revolution Russians were often represented as black bearded Cossacks with heavy eyebrows, who dance trepaks, ride in troikas, play violin, eat caviar or drink vodka in snowy landscapes.

Jewish stereotypes

See also: Antisemitism and Racial antisemitism.

Jewish people have been stereotyped throughout the centuries as black sheep to blame on everything that went wrong in society. Antisemitism continued throughout the centuries and reached a climax in the Third Reich during World War II. Jews are still stereotyped as greedy, nit-picky, stingy misers who are focused on money. They have been often shown counting money or collecting diamonds. In early films such as Cohen's Advertising Scheme (1904, silent) stereotyped Jews as "scheming merchants."[26] . In caricatures and cartoons they're often depicted having curly hair, large hooknoses, lips and wearing kippahs. Christian fundamentalists have often held them responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, who actually was Jewish by birth and was referred to as a rabbi. Common objects, phrases and traditions used to emphasize or ridicule Jewishness include bagels, playing violin, klezmer, circumcision, haggling and phrases like "Mazal Tov", "Shalom" and "Oy Vey".

Other Jewish stereotypes are the rabbi, the complaining and guilt inflicting Jewish mother stereotype, the spoiled and materialistic Jewish-American Princess and the often meek Nice Jewish Boy.

Middle and South-American stereotypes

See also: Stereotypes of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Middle and South-American stereotypes are depicted as hot-blooded, proud, lazy people who prefer to take siestas instead of working.

Sex and gender stereotyping

See also: Gender roles.

See also: LGBT stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are those ideas, usually imposed by society of what is expected of men and women in the social structure. Stereotypical behaviour and characteristics often attributed to men are: drinking alcohol, smoking a pipe or cigars, swearing, being obsessed with sex, sports, action and violence, being the breadwinner, fighting, being strong, assertive, risk-taking and insensitive.

Stereotypes of women may include lesser capabilities and/or competencies in math and science in comparison to men. (Crawford & Unger, 2004) Aside from dealing with stereotypes of cognitive capabilities, women also have to confront stereotypes about their physical appearance. Young women may suffer from low self-esteem and develop distorted conceptions of bodies. Various media outlets and entertainment such as Playboy, Barbie the Miss America Pageant and images seen in women’s magazines, television and movies lead to stereotypes of how girls and women should strive to be in society. From the 1950s through the ‘90s, the depiction of woman’s body in the Miss America contest and Playboy centerfolds became steadily thinner. (Spitzer, Henderson, & Zivian, 1999) Such portrayals of women’s bodies leads to unnecessary standards for weight and size. Other stereotypical behaviour and characteristics often attributed to the female sex are: being scared of mice, gossiping, shopping, nagging, lifting one leg in the air during kissing, fainting, crying, being scared, being weak, cooking, wearing a apron in the kitchen and not being able to read a map.

Homosexual stereotyping

A common Homosexual stereotype is the effeminate flamboyant gay character. This male character is often used in comedy and speaks with a gay lisp, waves his hands and is very open and vocal about his sexual orientation. His interests, hobbies or jobs are usually musical theatre, fashion, hairdressing, tea dance, disco, and music by Abba, The Village People and Judy Garland,

Lesbians are often depicted as butch man-girls, with clean shaven heads or stereotypical masculine behaviour.


The word stereotype is of Greek origin (στερεότυπος), literally meaning "solid-kind". It was invented by Firmin Didot in the world of printing; it was originally a duplicate impression of an original typographical element, used for printing instead of the original. American journalist Walter Lippmann coined the metaphor, calling a stereotype a "picture in our heads" saying "Whether right or wrong, ...imagination is shaped by the pictures seen... Consequently, they lead to stereotypes that are hard to shake." (Public Opinion, 1922, 95-156).[27] In fact, cliché and stereotype were both originally printers' words, and in their literal printers' meanings were synonymous. Specifically, cliché was a French word for the printing surface for a stereotype.[28]

The first reference to "stereotype", in its modern, English use was in 1850, in the noun, meaning "image perpetuated without change".[29]

Specialised use in ethology

In ethology, stereotyped behavior or fixed action pattern is an innate, pre-programmed response that is repeated when an animal is exposed to an environmental innate releasing mechanism.

See also


External links

Notes and References

  1. Stereos
  2. Tupos
  3. Book: Hate Prejudice and Racism. State University of New York Press. August 1993. 079141535X.
  4. Jost. JT. Banaji, MB. The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology. 33. 1–27. 1994.
  5. Hurst, Charles E. Social Inequality: Forms, Causes, and Consequences. 6. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2007. Different disciplines give different accounts of how stereotypes develop: Psychologists focus on how experience with groups, patterns of communication about the groups, and intergroup conflict. Sociologists focus on the relations among groups and position of different groups in a social structure. Psychoanalytically-oriented humanists have argued (e.g., Sander Gilman) that stereotypes, by definition, the representations are not accurate, but a projection of one to another.

    Stereotypes are not accurate representations of groups, rather they arise as a means of explaining and justifying differences between groups, or system justification. Social status or group position determines stereotype content, not the actual personal characteristics of group members.[4]

  6. Brewer. M. In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive-motivational analysis. Psychological Bulletin. 86. 307–324. 1979. 10.1037/0033-2909.86.2.307.
  7. McAndrew. FT. Akande, A. African perceptions of Americans of African and European descent. Journal of Social Psychology. 135. 5. 649–655. 1995.
  8. Steele CM, Aronson J. Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. J Pers Soc Psychol. 69. 5. 797–811. 1995. November. 7473032.
  9. Aronson J, Steele CM. (2005). Chapter 24:Stereotypes and the Fragility of Academic Competence, Motivation, and Self-Concept. In Handbook of Competence, [p. 436].
  10. Holmes, Malcolm D., and Judith A. Antell. 2001. “The Social Construction of American Indian Drinking: Perceptions of American Indian and White Officials.” Sociological Quarterly 42:151-173
  11. The Portrayal of Race, Ethnicity and Nationality in Televised International Athletic Events
  12. Jackson Assails Press On Portrayal of Blacks
  13. Darwin's Athletes: how sport has damaged Black America and preserved the myth of race By John Milton Hoberman ISBN 0395822920
  14. "White Men Can't Jump": Evidence for the Perceptual Confirmation of Racial Stereotypes Following a Basketball Game Jeff Stone, W. Perry, John M. Darley. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 1997, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 291-306
  15. The Ball Curve: Calculated Racism and the Stereotype of African American Men Ronald E. Hall Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Sep., 2001), pp. 104-119
  16. Patricia J. Williams: Web site: Racial Ventriloquism. The Nation. June 11. 2006. June 17, 1999.
  17. Stereotyping: An Intercultural No-No
  18. Leo W. Jeffres, K. Kyoon Hur (1979) White Ethnics and their Media Images Journal of Communication 29 (1), 116–122.
  19. [Brian Wansink]
  20. News: Kelly Whiteside. Andy Gardiner. USA needs to find the net. USA Today. 2006-08-20. 2008-05-09.
  21. Turner, p. 78
  22.,5753,-22429,00.html "A staple of American humor about the UK is the population's bad teeth."
  23. Deconstructing Whiteness: Irish Women in Britain Mary J. Hickman, Bronwen WalterFeminist Review, No. 50, The Irish Issue: The British Question (Summer, 1995), pp. 5-19 doi:10.2307/1395487
  25. Kerry Soper, "Performing 'Jiggs': Irish Caricature and Comedic Ambivalence toward Asøsimilation and the American Dream in George McManus's Bringing Up Father." Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 4.2 (2005): 72 pars. 30 Mar. 2007 online.
  26. The Movies, Race, and Ethnicity: Jews
  27. Ewen and Ewen, , 2006, 3-10.
  28. <Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage.> Springfield, Illinois: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1994. p. 250.
  29. Online Etymology Dictionary