What Causes Stereotypes to Be Formed?

Humans tend to develop widespread, sweeping beliefs and opinions, known as stereotypes, out of a need to organize thoughts by structuring and grouping ideas in a manner that allows them to understand where they are in relation to others. While many people feel that stereotyping based on age, race, religion, sexual orientation and other identifiers helps them to make accurate judgements more quickly and efficiently, stereotypes can become outdated and lead to inaccurate assessments.

Stereotypes are usually formed from previous life experiences and the ideas and beliefs that people already have. People often perceive things differently than how they actually are and latch onto concepts that confirm preconceived notions while dismissing information that is contrary to an established opinion. This why it is hard to change an assessment once it is ingrained in a culture.

Stereotyping is essentially an oversimplification of a person or group of people. Although it seems like people hear and see things objectively, a big part of perception is based on how people interpret a situation. Stereotypes can, for example, put what seems like malicious intent onto a person or group of people who would otherwise seem non-threatening. In order to prevent the formation of stereotypes, people have to put aside certain past experiences and avoid narrow-minded group think.