In our day to day lives, many of us encounter stereotypes, either being in a good context or a bad one. Stereotypes, by definition, are widely held but fixed and oversimplified ideas of a particular person or thing. Stereotypes are used most every day in life, and because they are so common it is important to understand the cognitive processes in which they come about.
Categorization is a key process, cognitively, in the formation of stereotypes. In order to categorize, mentally, we enhance the differences between groups on both social and physical aspects. Categories imply in themselves different moral meaning and values, putting what is being analyzed in different levels.
Once we put people or things into categories, there is then applied meaning. This stems from simply belonging to any group leading to stereotypes. These groups are then given characteristics as to why or why not said person may belong to a group.
Knowing that stereotypes are widely fixed, we then know that judgement towards groups is then going to be resistant to change. This is a block on cognition because judgement leads to biases and in the case of stereotypes, these biases are very strong. If we see our perceptions fitting into these categorized groups, it then confirms the bias. (Conformation bias) An example of this could be seeing a four year old being clumsy, if that was a previous judgement it is then grossly confirmed that all four year olds are clumsy. This most often however applies to race, such as the current issue of “Black Lives Matter” in who police are targeting, particularly in violence.
As well as being fixed, it is also interesting to note that stereotypes play on the self as well. A self-fulfilling prophesy of sorts and self-positivity then will affect in group views. This is why if one person in a group is somewhat of a negative, that whole group they then belong to will be negatively stereotyped. By specifying the differences between in and out groups, those differences are then magnified. This is when in group bias comes in because when differences within a group are lessened, it is then preferred.
Individuality is how we see ourselves and also will affect how we perceive others. We do see that individuals have their own characteristics however based on our own cognition we will group that person not based on characteristics but primarily on personality and physical characteristics, depending on the individual doing the grouping and their own set of cognitive biases.
Stereotype formation is a complex cognitive process; however it happens in a matter of seconds. Stereotypes affect how we see the world around us and help us to interpret meaning and simplify aspects around us in order to process functioning socially.
Essay UK, Critically Evaluate The Cognitive Theory Of Stereotyping. Available from: <http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/critically-evaluate-the-cognitive-theory-of-stereotyping.php> [14-04-16].
Mackie, D. M. (2003). Affect, Cognition, and Stereotyping: Interactive Processes in Group Perception. Elsevier Science Publishing Co.