And immediately you’ve got an image in your head – after reading that title – right!? Oh stereotypes, what would there be without them!
What are stereotypes actually, you may wonder. Well, there are different theories. One, for example, suggests that frequent conscious thoughts quickly develop into subconscious stereotypes. Stereotypes may “reduce” an individual’s complexity, making it easier for us to categorise information and thus allowing us to organise, simplify and predict our world. They can therefore also save time (everyone’s in a hurry these days)!
Furthermore, stereotypes can make us feel better about ourselves because they somewhat cast a shadow on groups that are considered inferior and less worth.
Frequently, the media suggests stereotypes, nevertheless, even a single interaction with an individual of a group can make a person attach a characteristic to all members of that group, and often parents and teachers influence children’s belief systems.
So, back to Americans (because everyone knows that they’re best and everything should be about them, eh? ;)). As for me, I used to have two kinds of steretypes, mainly formed through the media:
An American person is either
Now that I actually know some Americans, I’ve got a further set of stereotypes in my head – possibly just applying (if at all) to those (or some (or only the couple I know)) who left the States though:
So these are my stereotypes for Americans. I believe that there may be a little truth about them, after all, stereotypes must have some origin (I’d need to actually go to the States to be able to say more). Generally, stereotypes focus on and exaggerate differences between groups, which can actually make people feel more like a part of a group (and we all like that feeling of ‘belonging’ somewhere) if they have the (good/bad) characteristics that are said to define that group. However, it makes groups seem very different when they are actually rather pretty much alike (e.g. obesity in Europe is almost as high as in the States). At the end of the day, you can find all kinds of people around the world, we’re all the same and still different, eh?