How Are Stereotypes Perpetuated and Reinforced?

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Stereotypes are perpetuated when people are exposed to individuals with actions that confirm the appearance, values and behaviors of the stereotype. Stereotypes are reinforced when people justify the actions and behaviors because of the known stereotype and continue to judge others based on appearance, race, gender, economic status and occupation.

For example, if a homeless person is dressed in torn clothing, has dirt smudged on his face and is unshaven, he may be stereotyped as poor and dirty. The stereotype is further reinforced if the homeless person begins to beg others for money. In the minds of many, the action of begging for money justifies the stereotype that this individual is poor. However, many researchers and social scientists argue that stereotypes are perpetuated and reinforced when people are exposed to typical stereotypes in the media or in local communities, according to John Jost, associate professor at Stanford’s Business School. When exposed to these stereotypes, people begin to see a group of people with only a specific set of qualities versus recognizing individual differences. The stereotypes are also perpetuated and reinforced because it is simpler to group people in categories rather than critically think about the individualistic qualities of a person. As a result, many groups are discriminated against based on race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status and occupational status.