The Persistence of Stereotypes

February 5, 2013

woman-in-boxLike all of culture, stereotypes have to be learned. But once they are, they are extremely difficult to purge from one’s mind, or even to subdue into cultural curiosities that have no power over our behavior or thinking. Neuroscientists have long known that it takes much longer to unlearn incorrect information than it takes to learn it in the first place. Holding on to stereotypes is especially easy because evolution wired us to look for patterns as a survival skill. Successful hunting, gathering, farming and escaping predators all rely on forming patterns from our observations.

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Groups It’s OK To Make Fun Of

February 26, 2010

In the year 2010, in the United States, it’s acceptable to make fun of some groups of people. To find out which groups, you only need to turn on a children’s TV station, such as Nickelodeon, or wait until Halloween and see how people dress up. In fact, you, dear reader, may occasionally be promoting some cultural stereotypes without the slightest awareness that you are hurting anyone. I certainly don’t blame you, since some of the most wonderfully open minded people I know engage in this behavior. This post is an opportunity for you to contemplate cultural stereotypes that might at first seem like innocent fun, without being confronted directly. What you take from it is up to you, of course, but I hope that you realize that my feelings are genuine; these things bother me and they may upset other people who generally remain silent about them in public.


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