… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Concept description

The Oxford Dictionary (reference below) defines stereotype as a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

Lee Jussim (reference below) defines stereotype as “a belief about the characteristics of a social group.”

Saul McLeod (reference below) writes:

“One advantage of a stereotype is that it enables us to respond rapidly to situations because we may have had a similar experience before.

“One disadvantage is that it makes us ignore differences between individuals; therefore we think things about people that might not be true (i.e. make generalizations).

“The use of stereotypes is a major way in which we simplify our social world; since they reduce the amount of processing (i.e. thinking) we have to do when we meet a new person.

“By stereotyping we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group have. Stereotypes lead to social categorization, which is one of the reasons for prejudice attitudes (i.e. “them” and “us” mentality) which leads to in-groups and out-groups.

“Most stereotypes probably tend to convey a negative impression. Positive examples would include judges (the phrase “sober as a judge” would suggest this is a stereotype with a very respectable set of characteristics), overweight people (who are often seen as “jolly”) and television news readers (usually seen as highly dependable, respectable and impartial). Negative stereotypes seem far more common, however.”

For a commentary on the extent to which stereotypes reflect reality, see Jessim’s Analysis of Stereotype Accuracy.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Diversity, Identity, and Rights (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Oxford Living Dictionaries, stereotype, at, accessed 18 December 2016.

Lee Jussim (2014), Stereotype Inaccuracy: A Belief Impervious to Data When are liberals anti-scientific, Psychology Today, 1 August, at, accessed 17 December 2016.

Saul McLeod (2015), Stereotypes, Simply Psychology, at, accessed 18 December 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 18 December 2016.

Image: Society for Personality and Social Psychology, at, accessed 17 December 2016.