General Question

Mtl_zack's avatar

Whats the difference between generalization and stereotyping?

Asked by Mtl_zack (6762points) September 5th, 2008
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

In generalization, one takes a specific and extrapolates to a broader group of circumstances. Sometimes, it can be a good thing. Say a child touches a hot burner. The child then generalizes and will not touch a hot burner again. Where generalization can go wrong is that sometimes the specifics are not accurately generalized to a larger group. In the example above, the child might refuse to ever touch any stove.

Stereotyping is attributing certain characteristics to a group based on some common factor the group has. For example, all fat people are jolly and lazy. Stereotypes by their nature are inaccurate since not all members of a specific group of people who share one commonality necessarily share others.

Mtl_zack's avatar

so would something like “smoking causes cancer” be a stereotype? there are people who smoke dont develop cancer.

gailcalled's avatar

That’s a slogan, Zach. The generalization would be “many people who smoke eventually get lung cancer.”

wildflower's avatar

All stereotypes are based on generalizations, but not all generalizations are stereotypes.

gailcalled's avatar

The stereotype would be “All smokers have beer bellies, tattoos, BO and ride motorcycles.”

marinelife's avatar

Also, that analogy doesn’t work, because smoking as a risk factor for cancer has a demonstrated cause and effect. It would be a generalization to say “If you smoke, you will get cancer.” It would be a stereotype to say “Smokers are filthy, smelly people who care nothing for the rights of others.”

Mtl_zack's avatar

ive noticed a trend: whenever someone gives an example of a stereotype, they give examples of things looked down upon by (yes i know, im contradicting this question) society in general. i.e.: “filthy smelly people who care nothing for the rights of others”, all smokers have beer bellies, tattoos, BO, and ride motorcycles”. other common stereotypes are “jews are cheap” or “italians are loud”. many of these things are looked down upon due to socialization throughout the many generations of humankind.

however, when people say “americans are very devoted to their country” or “celebrities are beautiful people”, those are considered generalizations.

why are generalizations accepted and stereotypes unaccepted? they both dont deal with cause and effect.

gailcalled's avatar

I think that by definition, stereotypes are oversimplifications and therefore usually pejorative.

cyndyh's avatar

Stereotypes can still refer to things that aren’t looked down upon. “Asians are good at math” is a stereotype even though being good at math wouldn’t be a bad thing. Stereotypes also tend to be often repeated. Generalizations can be brand spankin’ new.

scamp's avatar

Here is an example of stereotyping.

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