The Power of Stereotypes and How they Impact us
Stereotypes can be threatening!
From “women are bad drivers” and “men are not emotional” to “rich people are proud” and people from specific communities are “misers”, stereotypes are almost always in the air and we tend to carry them around with us. Studies have shown that the effect of stereotypes is such that it can affect memory, performance on tasks and tests, and intellectual abilities. In a study black participants showed higher levels of self-doubt than white participants while in another study, men did not perform their best at social sensitivity as this is seen as a skill that females acquire. These stereotypes have even affected the memory performance of elderly people since they are already stigmatized to have lower memory power than people of other ages!
Interesting, and terrifying. isn’t it?
Moreover, stereotypes also come with a threat. This threat is the fear of doing something that would confirm a negative perception that people have about a particular group. For instance, a woman has heard that women usually aren’t good drivers and so upon making a genuine driving mistake, she may fear that she has just confirmed the stigma that women are not good drivers.
This is pressure that we really don’t want in our daily lives.. so how do we solve it?
One way is to change stereotypes. This is a way to eliminate the entire problem but unfortunately it is a slow process. Work should constantly be done to change stereotypes in order to eliminate stigmas associated with particular groups. However, shorter ways to cater to this problem are also available:
Role models – Research shows that the effect of role models on people has a positive impact on their performance. There has been a positive effect of Obama on African-Americans according to a study.
Positive Group Identity – Shifting self-perceptions to positive group identities can help boost up performance as these negative self-perceptions are then replaced by a positive identities that one can identify with. For example, Asians are typically seen as being good at math and so they performed well on a test. We all belong to different groups so it’s better to focus more on the strength of the group rather than its negative perception.
Awareness – Simply being aware of the stereotypes that surround can help realize where the anxiety is coming from and then help us to perform better.
Take it like a challenge – If we take the stereotypical image of our group and try to prove otherwise; that is, take it like a challenge, it will help in gaining the confidence that we CAN perform the task and do well regardless of the stigma associated with the group we are a part of!