Discussion: Stereotypes: Categories and Concepts for Understanding the World

Concepts for Understanding the World

Picture a teacher talking to a student. In the instant that you thought of the word teacher, what image of a person jumped into your mind? What were the age, color, gender, and nationality of the imagined teacher? What was the teacher doing and wearing? Similarly, what image of a student appeared in your mind to distinguish between the two people?

Humans understand the world by creating categories and labeling concepts and, in this way, apply the concepts in a new circumstance. Stereotypes fall into this category of labeling concepts. They provide a system of coding that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge. On the other hand, stereotypes often demean people by distorting individual characteristics, skills, and abilities. By classifying people based on perceived characteristics of a group, inaccuracies arise at individual and group levels. These inaccuracies about individuals or groups can inhibit effective communication. As an intercultural communicator, however, there are some instances when using stereotypes can be helpful in gaining a level of cultural competence.

To prepare for your Discussion:

  • Review Chapter 6 in the course text. Pay particular attention to the section on stereotyping and the list of cultural categories. Have you seen or heard anyone stereotype any of these cultural categories either in the media or in your own experience?
  • Locate common stereotypes about your culture on the Internet. Do any of them surprise you? What is true about these stereotypes? What is untrue?
  • Find three common stereotypes of your culture in the media, or, using the cultural categories in Chapter 6 of the course text, think of a personal experience where you were stereotyped by your membership in one of those categories. Do you feel you are stereotyped in specific ways by certain cultural categories?
  • Reflect on a personal experience or an example in the media where your culture has been stereotyped by another culture. How does stereotyping by the sender or receiver of the message in this situation affect the intercultural communication?

Note: One of the goals of this course is to promote a wide variety of views. You are encouraged to present your honest personal viewpoint while at all times reflecting a respectful tone for the views of others.

Do a 2 paragraph description of two examples of a stereotype of your culture that is found in the media or that you experienced personally. Explain the effects that true and untrue aspects of the selected stereotypes have on intercultural communication. Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to at least one of this week’s Learning Resources. Additionally, you may opt to include an outside academic resource that you have identified.

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