What Are Stereotypes? – Functions, Causes, Effects and Examples

The stereotypes are characteristics imposed on groups of people because of their race, national origin and sexual orientation, these features tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved, and although some people truly embody the traits of the stereotype, are not necessarily representative of all People within that group are often considered negative perceptions of groups, such as that they are dangerous or unintelligent, but stereotypes can also be positive perceptions, as certain races are more intelligent than others. Either way, they are not always accurate.

Roles of stereotypes

Early studies suggested that stereotypes were only used by rigid, repressed, and authoritarian people. This idea has been refuted by contemporary studies that suggest the ubiquity of stereotypes and it was suggested to consider them as collective group beliefs, which means that people who belong to the same social group share the same set of stereotypes.

Modern research claims that full understanding requires considering them from two complementary perspectives: how it is shared within a particular culture / subculture and how it is formed in the mind of an individual person.

Relationship between cognitive and social functions.

Stereotypes can fulfill cognitive functions at the interpersonal level and social functions at the intergroup level, for them to work at an intergroup level, an individual must see himself as part of a group and being part of that group must also be relevant to the individual.

Craig McGarty, Russell Spears, and Vincent Y. Yzerbyt (2002) argued that the cognitive functions of stereotypes are best understood in relation to their social functions, and vice versa.


Stereotypes can help make sense of the world, they are a form of categorization that helps to simplify and systematize information. Therefore, information is more easily identified, remembered, predicted and reacted, they are categories of objects or people. Among stereotypes, objects or people are as different from each other as possible, within them, objects or people are as similar to each other as possible.

A complementary perspective theorizes how stereotypes function as time and energy savers that allow people to act more efficiently. Another perspective suggests that stereotypes are biased perceptions of people about their social contexts. From this point of view, people use stereotypes as shortcuts to make sense of their social contexts, and this makes a person’s task of understanding their world less cognitively demanding.


In the following situations, the general purpose of stereotypes is for people to express their collective identity (their group membership) in a positive light:

  • When stereotypes are used to explain social events.
  • When stereotypes are used to justify the activities of one’s own group (in a group) to another group (external group).
  • When stereotypes are used to differentiate the group as clearly distinct from external groups.


Stereotypes can emphasize the group membership of a person in two steps: they emphasize the similarities of the person with the members of the group in the relevant dimensions, and also the differences of the person of the members of the external group in the relevant dimensions.

People change the stereotype of their workgroups and external groups to fit the context, once an external group treats a group member badly, they are more attracted to members of their own group, this can be seen as members than they can relate to each other through a stereotype due to identical situations.

Causes and development of stereotypes

The learning social and social perception , group norms and reference groups play a tremendous role in the development of stereotypes.

The stereotype is therefore purely acquired and is solely influenced by sociocultural conditioning, it is also based on stories, anecdotes and, sometimes, actual experience has tremendous additive value in the formation and development of stereotypes.

From a personal point of view, they can have an unconscious self-reference, one can imagine their own qualities in a group and hate it because it is in conflict for the same qualities in itself. They originate due to the feelings and emotions of the individual with less emphasis on the characteristics of stimulating circumstances.

Once a girl said to her mother “Mom, a woman wants to see you.” Mama replied, “Don’t say woman, tell her lady.” The girl replied: “But mom you always call them a woman”, this shows how stereotypes grow due to social learning and imitation.

In the great flourishing confusion of the outside world, we pick up what our culture has already defined for us and we tend to perceive what we have picked up in the form of stereotypes for us by our culture.

Stereotypes grow from experience, as already indicated, it is an unassimilated construct that assimilates different types of experiences in the same pattern on the basis of a minor similarity or a fallacious similarity, they are so persuasive and important that many researchers have tried to explore its psychological basis. Stereotypes are often based on cognitive processes according to recent opinions.

Effects of stereotypes

There are different effects that this can bring and they are the following:

Attributional ambiguity

It refers to the uncertainty that members of stereotyped groups experience when interpreting the causes of the behavior of others towards them. Stereotyped individuals who receive negative feedback may attribute it to personal deficiencies, such as lack of ability or effort, or the stereotypes and prejudices of the evaluator towards their social group. Alternatively, positive feedback can be attributed to personal merit or discounted as a form of sympathy or compassion.

Attributional ambiguity has been shown to affect a person’s self – esteem . When they receive positive reviews, stereotypical people are unsure whether they really deserved their success, and consequently find it difficult to take credit for their achievements. In the case of negative feedback, ambiguity has been shown to have a protective effect on self-esteem, as it allows people to blame external causes. However, some studies have found that this effect is only maintained when stereotyped individuals can be absolutely certain that their negative results are due to rater bias.

Attributional ambiguity can also make it difficult to assess one’s abilities because performance-related assessments are mistrustful or discounted. Also, it can lead to the belief that one’s efforts are not directly related to results, which depresses motivation to succeed.


Stereotype threat occurs when people are aware of a negative stereotype about their social group and experience anxiety or concern that they may confirm the stereotype.

Not only has the stereotypical threat been widely criticized on a theoretical basis, but several attempts to replicate its experimental evidence have also failed. The findings supporting the concept have been suggested by multiple methodological reviews as a product of publication bias.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Stereotypes lead people to expect certain actions from members of social groups. These expectations based on stereotypes can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies, in which inaccurate expectations about a person’s behavior, through social interaction, cause that person to act in a manner consistent with the stereotype, thus confirming the erroneous expectations and validating it. .


Because stereotypes simplify and justify social reality, they have potentially powerful effects on how people perceive and treat each other. As a result, they can lead to discrimination in labor markets and other domains.

For example, Tilcsik (2011) has found that employers seeking candidates with heterosexual male traits are more likely to engage in discrimination against gay men, suggesting that discrimination based on sexual orientation is partly in stereotypes. specific and that is the big loom in many labor markets.

Agerström and Rooth (2011) demonstrated that the automatic obesity stereotypes captured by the Implicit Association Test can predict true discrimination in hiring against the obese. Similarly, experiments suggest that gender stereotypes play an important role in judgments affecting hiring decisions.

Stereotype implications

They play an important role in how people perceive and form the impressions of others. Once an individual is classified as a member of a particular group, they may come to be judged in terms of group-based expectations.

In the absence of clear confirmation, the person can easily be seen as a “typical” member of that group, interchangeable with other members of the group. In contrast to such category-based impressions, perceivers can instead judge individuals based on personal attributes, some of which may be typical of their group, but many of which are not.

This individuation process, while avoiding the risks of inaccurate or exaggerated stereo typing, requires a much greater investment of time and energy. Knowing the personal attributes of an individual, rather than simply assuming that he or she possesses typical group attributes, requires fairly extensive contact and unbiased evaluations of the individual being encountered. Given these demands, stereotypes may be the default process that guides social perception when the need or desire for accurate impressions is not particularly pressing.

Stereotypes versus generalizations

While all stereotypes are generalizations, not all generalizations are stereotypes.

Stereotypes are overly circular enlargements of a group of people, while generalizations may be based more on personal experience, not on a widely accepted factor.

In the United States, certain racial groups have been linked to stereotypes, such as being good at math, athletics and dancing, these are so well known that the average American would not hesitate if asked to identify which racial group in this country has a reputation for excelling in basketball. In short, when a stereotype is made, the cultural mythology already present in a particular society is repeated.

On the other hand, a person can make a generalization about an ethnic group that has not been perpetuated in society. For example, someone who knows some people from a particular country and finds them quiet and reserved may say that all citizens of the country in question are quiet and reserved. A generalization like this does not allow for diversity within groups and can result in stigmatization and discrimination of groups if the stereotypes attached to them are largely negative.

Examples of stereotypes

Negative stereotypes

  • All blonde women are dumb.
  • If I’m wearing goth clothes, I’m in a rock band, I’m depressed, or I smoke drugs.
  • Girls are only concerned with physical appearance.
  • Boys are messy and filthy.
  • Men who do not like sports are called homosexuals.
  • Girls are not good at sports.
  • All teenagers are rebellious.
  • All children do not enjoy healthy food.
  • Only anorexic women can become models.
  • Women who smoke and drink have no morals.
  • Men who like pink are effeminate.

Positive stereotypes

  • All blacks are great basketball players.
  • All Asians are geniuses.
  • All Indians are deeply spiritual.
  • All Latinos dance well.
  • All targets are successful.
  • Asians have a high IQ. They are smarter than most in math and science, these people are more likely to be successful in school.
  • African Americans can dance.
  • All Canadians are exceptionally polite.
  • The French are romantics.
  • All Asians know kung fu.
  • All African American men are well endowed.
  • Italians are good lovers.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.