The Merits of Stereotypes

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

In a multi-annual study titled "Economic Insecurity, Prejudicial Stereotypes, and Public Opinion on Immigration Policy", published byrepparttar Political Science Quarterly,repparttar 132496 authors Peter Burns and James Gimpel substantiatedrepparttar 132497 hypothesis that "economic self-interest and symbolic prejudice have often been treated as rival explanations for attitudes on a wide variety of issues, but it is plausible that they are complementary on an issue such as immigration. This would berepparttar 132498 case if prejudice were caused, at least partly, by economic insecurity."

A long list of scholarly papers demonstrate how racism - especially amongrepparttar 132499 dispossessed, dislocated, and low-skilled - surges during times of economic hardship or social transition. Often there is a confluence of long-established racial and ethnic stereotypes with a growing sense of economic insecurity and social dislocation.

"Social Identity Theory" tells us that stereotypical prejudice is a form of compensatory narcissism. The acts of berating, demeaning, denigrating, and debasing others serve to enhancerepparttar 132500 perpetrators' self-esteem and regulate their labile sense of self-worth. It is vicarious "pride by proxy" - belonging to an "elite" group bestows superiority on all its members. Not surprisingly, education has some positive influence on racist attitudes and political ideology.

Having been entangled - sometimes unjustly - with bigotry and intolerance,repparttar 132501 merits of stereotypes have often been overlooked.

In an age of information overload, "nutshell" stereotypes encapsulate information compactly and efficiently and thus possess an undeniable survival value. Admittedly, many stereotypes are self-reinforcing, self-fulfilling prophecies. A young black man confronted by a white supremacist may well respond violently and an Hispanic, unable to find a job, may end up is a street gang.

But this recursiveness does not detract fromrepparttar 132502 usefulness of stereotypes as "reality tests" and serviceable prognosticators. Blacks do commit crimes over and above their proportion inrepparttar 132503 general population. Though stereotypical inrepparttar 132504 extreme, it is a useful fact to know and act upon. Hence racial profiling.

Stereotypes - like fables - are often constructed around middle class morality and are prescriptive. They splitrepparttar 132505 world intorepparttar 132506 irredeemably bad -repparttar 132507 other, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, women, gay - andrepparttar 132508 flawlessly good, we,repparttar 132509 purveyors ofrepparttar 132510 stereotype. While expressly unrealistic,repparttar 132511 stereotype teaches "what not to be" and "how not to behave". A by-product of this primitive rendition is segregation.

A large body of scholarship shows that proximity and familiarity actually polarize rather than ameliorate inter-ethnic and inter-racial tensions. Stereotypes minimize friction and violence by keeping minorities andrepparttar 132512 majority apart. Venting and vaunting substitute for vandalizing and worse. In time, as erstwhile minorities are gradually assimilated and new ones emerge, conflict is averted.

Moreover, though they frequently reflect underlying deleterious emotions - such as rage or envy - not all stereotypes are negative. Blacks are supposed to have superior musical and athletic skills. Jews are thought to be brainier in science and shrewder in business. Hispanics uphold family values and ethnic cohesion. Gays are sensitive and compassionate. And negative stereotypes are attached even to positive social roles - athletes are dumb and violent, soldiers inflexible and programmed.

Stereotypes are selective filters. Supporting data is hoarded and information torepparttar 132513 contrary is ignored. One way to shape stereotypes into effective coping strategies is to bombard their devotees with "exceptions", contexts, and alternative reasoning.

Blacks are good athletes because sports is one ofrepparttar 132514 few egalitarian career paths open to them. Jews, historically excluded from all professions, crowded into science and business and specialized. If gays are indeed more sensitive or caring thanrepparttar 132515 average perhaps it is because they have been repressed and persecuted for so long. Athletes are not prone to violence - violent athletes simply end up on TV more often. And soldiers have to act reflexively to survive in battle.

There is nothing wrong with stereotypes if they are embedded in reality and promoterepparttar 132516 understanding of social and historical processes. Western, multi-ethnic, pluralistic civilization celebrates diversity andrepparttar 132517 uniqueness and distinctiveness of its components. Stereotypes merely acknowledge this variety.

USA Today Magazine reported in January a survey of 800 adults, conducted last year by social psychology professors Amanda Diekman of Purdue University and Alice Eagly of Northwestern University. They found that far from being rigid and biased, stereotypes regardingrepparttar 132518 personality traits of men and women have changed dramatically to accurately reflect evolving gender roles.

Diekman noted that "women are perceived as having become much more assertive, independent, and competitive overrepparttar 132519 years... Our respondents - whether they were old enough to have witnessed it or not - recognizedrepparttar 132520 role change that occurred when women began working outsiderepparttar 132521 home in large numbers andrepparttar 132522 necessity of adopting characteristics that equip them to be breadwinners."

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at



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"About 60 percent ofrepparttar time, we find that people aren't tellingrepparttar 132493 truth," Alexander claims. Background checks, criminal and civil record checks are important, according to Alexander, because it's easy to be deceived when looking for love online. "You do not haverepparttar 132494 same visual cues about someone as when you are face to face with a person," she says. "Somebody behind a computer screen, can be anything they want to be.

You have no idea who's onrepparttar 132495 other side of that screen. We tell our clients it is important to Be Safe and Be Smart. To take control of your future. Information isrepparttar 132496 key. A similar check could have helped Wadsworth. For instance, Abney had told Wadsworth that he had never been married, but Alexander found a civil record for a divorce. Alexander says that background and record checks would have revealed that Abney had lied about many personal details, which might have served as a warning to Wadsworth.

"It tells her thatrepparttar 132497 man is not tellingrepparttar 132498 truth," Alexander asserts. "He's a liar. He has something to hide in his life. I don't know if it tells her that he's going to swing a hammer over her head and that he's going to beat her almost to death, but I think it is enough to say, 'Watch out, red flag, don't let this man inrepparttar 132499 door.'"

These warning come too late for Wadsworth, who is currently taking a break from romance andrepparttar 132500 Internet while she works to recover fromrepparttar 132501 physical and emotional wounds she has suffered. "I sleep withrepparttar 132502 light on every night," she says. "It's affected me."

While more and more singles are turning torepparttar 132503 Internet to meet their mates and many online dating stories do have happy endings, it is important to remember that there are dangers to digital love. Wadsworth hopes that what she went through will help to warn others of those dangers.

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