Stereotyping beings at an early age. As early as preschool we hear teachers saying, ‘boys enjoy playing rough and getting dirty’ in contrast girls are more prone to playing with dolls. Many people fail to think about the impact stereotyping has on their daily lives. However, society is filled with stereotypes.
It was once believed that people stereotyped in order to make life simpler (Nelson, 2009). Stereotyping provides individuals with immediate information about others and the situation. Theoretically, this practice could be beneficial assuming the stereotypes were correct as they provide the individual with immediate information as to how to correctly perceive others. However, as time elapsed, people realized that the stereotypes they held often were not correct. Furthermore, they cast undesirable traits on others without knowing anything about them. As a result, psychologists began to believe that ‘bigoted people use stereotypes’ (Psychology Today, 2009, pp.1).
Despite the belief that bigoted people use stereotypes, recent research has shown “we all use stereotypes, all the time, without knowing it” (Psychology Today, 2009, pp. 2). The process of stereotyping occurs both on a conscious and unconscious level. On an unconscious level, people cast certain traits upon others in order to learn information about them. From an evolutionary psychology perspective, this process helps the individual to perceive danger in unknown situations (Nelson, 2009).
On a conscious level, people apply what they know. However, how the individual forms stereotypes, which can be both positive and negative is unknown. In examining stereotyping from a social psychological perspective, researchers theorize that people need to fit into society. The need to fit in with different groups is complicated, as individuals also want to feel good about themselves. Psychology Today (2009) expands on this in noting, “we want to feel good about the group we belong to and one way of doing so is to denigrate all those who aren’t in it” (pp. 4). This process can easily be applied to race as well as other life factors. For example, a college student may believe that other individuals his age that chose not go attend college are less than him.