WHAT IS STEREOTYPING?
S
tereotyping is defined as an "oversimplified, usually pejorative, attitude people hold toward those outside one's own experience who are different. They are a result of incomplete or distored information accepted as fact without question"(8). A stereotype is simply a widely held belief that an individual is a member of a certain group based on charcteristics. Due to the process of overgeneralization within social perception, stereotyping leads to a great deal of inaccuracy in social perception.

Sex, race, age, sexual orentation, religion and physical ability are various catagories which exist in stereotyping. The most prevalent and controversial forms are sex and race.

The Williams and Best gender study from 1992 found that within 30 different countries, males were typically characterized as adventurous, powerful, domineering and independent. Females, on the other hand, were characterized as sentimental, submissive and superstitious (5). Racial studies have found that descriptions such as Jews are shrewd and ambitious, African-Americans have special musical and athletic ability and Germans are methodical and efficent, are commonly used to label these ethnic groups.

Slowly, society has been making a slight transition away from stereotyping. Unfortunately it is a difficult process, especially since we rely on second-hand sources for our information for the majority of our knowledge. The main outlet of second-hand information is the mass media(7). As a result of depending largely on the second-hand source of mass media, mass media in turn plays a major role in determining the content of our culture. Stereotyping is a product of culture, therefore, mass media have a strong influence in supporting and tearing down stereotypical characteristics.

So why do Stereotypes persist?
Three key factors

1. Stereotypes are functional: As audience members we are bombarded with much more information than we can process. Our tendency is to reduce complexity to simplicity. We trade-off for simplification, which can lead to inaccuracy and we are often unaware of this deduction (2).

2. Stereotypes are results of selectivity in social perception: We tend to see what we expect to see, and we have a tendency to twist and distort the characteristics of others until it fits our stereotype of that particular group(2).

3. Prejudice: This is the most influential factor in stereotyping. Our perceptions are highly subjective, and many people subscribe to derogatory descriptions of ethnic groups. Unfortunately the selectivity of a person's perception result in people seeing what they expect to see when they come in contact with members of an ethnic group they view with prejudice(2).