Stereotypes: On What Basis Do We Judge?

Laura Freebairn-Smith

Published in “Organizational Development Practitioner,” Issue 38 (2), 2006. © Laura Freebairn-Smith and Organizational Design and Development Associates.

“Stereotyping is a process by which individuals are viewed as members of groups and the information that we have stored in our minds about the group is ascribed to the individual.” (Cox Jr., 1994)

Many diversity theories show that individuals use stereotyping to navigate interpersonal and group interactions on a daily basis. (Leach, George, Jackson, & Labella, 1995) (Cox Jr., 1994) Stereotypes can become barriers to effective interaction but they also serve a very real need to navigate large amounts of information and hundreds of interactions.

After more than 15 years of work on and around diversity, stereotypes and stereotyping continues to be the hardest and most volatile conversation topic in my class. What purpose does stereotyping serve? On what basis do we form stereotypes? And why do they get us into such trouble? This paper offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the sources of stereotypes in the hopes that we can learn to avoid the oppressive use of stereotypes.

  • Stereotyping: On What Basis Do We Judge?
  • Sources of Stereotypes – A New Conceptual Model
  • Remediating Data Deficiencies
  • Potential Future Research

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