The human race has been gifted with the innate tendency and ability to socialize, and in this socialization process, people relate, converse with, make first impressions, and even judge other people they meet. The popular saying ‘first impressions last’ may even become a topic of debate as people have different ways and bases of forming first impressions. Some may have correct impressions from beginning to end, and some may don’t.
Some people may create impressions about others by merely relying on their instincts, while others may tend to rely on stereotypes. Stereotypes can be explained as a previously formed notion or impression about an individual or a group of individuals based on the process of generalization and reduction of an observed and common appearance, trait, or behavior (Media Awareness Network [MNet], 2008).
It is said to reflect how people create impressions about a specific group of people and tend to generalize based on the specific traits they have observed on that group whenever they meet a person with a similar trait or quality. Stereotypes have been said to exist since time immemorial—as old as human culture itself—for there have been several stereotypes that have become popular throughout history, such as “nerds,” “bullies,” “cheerleaders,” “bachelors,” and “black basketball players,” among the others (MNet, 2008).
This concept is also more popularly known as the “pictures in the head,” as it is also characterized as the process through which people create identities and impressions about another person by referring to the pictures they have in mind of specific individuals who possess similar traits and qualities as the one they have met (Hewstone, Macrae, & Stangor, 1996, p. 3). This can be very well observed in usual daily socializations where people form impressions about others who appear to have similar traits; for example, tall, heavy-built, black men are associated with skillful champions in basketball.
However, stereotyping cannot always be as simple as the “pictures in the head. ” Oftentimes, stereotyping can also be associated with discrimination and biases (Macrae, & Stangor, 1996). As a real-life example, I have this friend back where we used to live in high school who was not admitted into a Catholic School because he had the family name of an infamous lineage of terrorists. Looking back at this situation, I realized that stereotypes can as well become a form of prejudice.
My innocent friend was not accepted to a reputable school just because the school administration had been stereotypical about him that he might come from the well-known family of terrorists and criminals during that time. Thus, this may stand as evidence to the fact that stereotyping cannot always be a pleasant way of forming impressions. Stereotyping appears to be a very interesting topic of study and research for me because it explains how people might create impressions about me and how I tend to create impressions of other people I meet as well.
The study of stereotypes can also give us an idea on how credible stereotyping is. In this simple research, it may appear that generally, people do not always have to rely on stereotyping, for we cannot always generalize based on the popular notion or impression. However, it can also appear that stereotyping is inevitable especially when people do not seem to have any more bases on how to classify or identify a person.
Thus, stereotyping has been and shall remain a natural tendency of people to judge other people. However, studying the nature of stereotypes and stereotyping may eventually provide people with a basis of understanding where stereotypes come from and whether or not we should rely on them. Understanding stereotypes can also give people an idea that indeed, not all first impressions tend to last; however, some may do if they were proven to be based on factual background about an individual or a social group.