People are prone to categorize other people all over the world. This process exists in every society. There are a few common bases for such characterization. Age, race, and gender are the main criteria for such division. Essentially, it is possible to classify the stranger as Asian, Black, White, Latino, male, female, child, adult, etc., as soon as one takes a look at the person. It is possible to process a huge amount of information about momentary encounters. We are thought to treat each person as a unique individual, but a few seconds let us identify a stranger as an exponent of one category. In light of this, scientists insist that people do not follow this tip and routinely categorize people. This paper draws the purpose to find out the ways people use to identify other persons and the real causes that prompt people to do it. Consequently, observing the stereotypes will lead to other social phenomena that impact either society or separate individuals.

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Stereotypes and Salience

Stereotype – is the general definition of a person due to typical features which characterize a member of a higher group. A stereotype is an oversimplified list of beliefs for members of social stratums or groups they belong to. The tight list of perceived characteristics allows humans to characterize another person in the way of attributing herhim to a particular group. Stereotypes describe usually incorrectly some ‘typical’ member of a social group. The stereotype characterization is based on the salience principle. This principle states around some events that are obvious or appear initially prominent. So, people are salient about them. For instance, skin color is the obvious and salient characteristic. Skin color is the first thing that people notice. Therefore, the skin becomes the basis for stereotyping. In the USA a choice of salient characteristics is determined culturally. The nose, lips size, and shape, hair texture, body structure, or skin color are salient characteristics.

Kinds of Stereotypes

Stereotypes that are based on ethnicity or race are called racial-ethnic stereotypes. The stereotyping of the Chinese as ignorant, dirty, and untrustworthy in the USA is a bright example of this statement. Americans tend to think that Jews are materialistic and unethical; Italians are prone to crime, they are overly argumentative and emotionally, etc. Racial – ethnic stereotypes lead to racism. Nonetheless, when we see Italian or Jew we attribute general features of the group to the definite person. Stereotypes, bias, prejudice, and discrimination have an illusory correlation with reality. Very often a popular meaning of a group of people turns out to be a false one.

Racism is divided into a few types. There is historical, scientific, institutional, and new racism. Historical racism identifies the population with a common origin in history. Adherents of this racial approach do not define the nation with a fixed biological character. They define commonly European nations, have symbols (Nazi Eagle) and believe in the superiority of one nation. Scientific racism insists that all people might be characterized by certain physical traits. Followers of this approach support the hierarchy of one race. It means that one race should civilize and another justify providing colonialism. Institutional racism intends the protection of some dominant groups. It maintains the unequal position of subordinate groups. The supporters of institutional racism systematically discriminate against particular groups of people by certain social structures. New expressions, such as integration, cultural values, and immigrants input racial contests in our culture. New racism is the notion of determining cultural or other inferiorities (Hick, 2000).

Prejudice is the attitude towards the person being discriminated against. Prejudice means commonly what you think about an adherent of some social group.

Discrimination is the negative and irregular attitude of people to a member of some particular social group or stratum because of the very fact of their membership in a definite group or stratum. People tend to think that discrimination is an action and means what you do relative to a deprived person. There are two minor types of discrimination. They are housing and income discrimination. The main difference between income discrimination and housing discrimination is their subordinating to the law.

Discrimination means behavior, prejudice means attitude; racism consists of either attitude or behavior (Andersen & Taylor, 281).

Psychological Theories of Prejudice

Why do prejudice, racism, and discrimination exist? Two categories of theories exist to explain the cause of their appearance in society. The first category relates to Sociological Theories of the types of racism; it takes into account discrimination and institutional racism. The second category relates to Psychological Theories about prejudice. This way, theories of prejudice consist of two types, as well. They are Authoritarian and Scapegoat theories. The Scapegoat Theory describes the members of the historically dominative group with their desire to get social and economic superiority over various minority groups. Such frustration brings aggression and anger as a result. The members of minority groups become scapegoats and sustain the discrimination.

For instance, the White person was denied a job because many Mexican Americans were permitted into the country, this person would become hostile and treat them as scapegoats. The central idea in Scapegoat Theory is the psychological principle that tells us about frustration which is often followed by aggression. The Authoritarian Theory argues that authoritarian personalities are more likely to be prejudiced against minority groups than individuals who do not have authoritarian personalities. This theory researches individuals that are described by a tendency to share other people into categories. They are also inclined to submit an authority, be very intolerant to ambiguity, rigidly conform, and be inclined to superstition. The people belonging to this category have a tendency more often to stereotype and rigidly characterize the members of minority groups. Virtually, the Authorization Theory directly relates to high religious orthodoxy and extreme political conservatism.

Sociological theories of prejudice are currently explaining the appearance of prejudice and the varieties of its forms. These theories examine particularly institutional racism. Three types of theories present the sociological approach to prejudice investigation. They are the Functionalist Theory, Symbolic, and Conflict Theories.

To begin with, functionalist theory, which argues that ethnic and race relations are functional to society, these relations contribute to the stability and harmonious relations among members of different groups of society. Functionalist Theory insists that minorities must assimilate into the definite society. Assimilation means economic, cultural, and social absorption within the dominant society. The Symbolic Interaction Theory describes two main issues. It shows social and ethnic interaction in reducing hostility and construction of these events in the definite society. Symbolic Interaction Theory is looking for the answer to the question about the interaction between two adherents of different social groups and how it can reduce hostility and solve racial conflicts. The fundamental part of Conflict Theory is class-based conflicts. The Conflict theorists identify that racial and ethnic conflicts are tied to class conflicts and might be solved by reducing class inequality.

The Causes of Prejudice

The above theories are discovering prejudice, the reasons for its existence, and ways to solve interaction conflicts. However, what is the real reason, why prejudice appears? The great part of this process plays social learning. (Children imitate parents’ and friends’ behavior to learn a prejudice.) There exists the Motivational Theory that makes people deal with bias. Those people who are going to achieve success obtain negative thoughts about competitors. This prompts people to generalize their thoughts about all members of the group presented by competitors. People often develop prejudice because of experiences they have during their development. For example, a person reared by a bald man, who used to punishment may develop a bias against all bald men. Cognitive dissonance is another reason, why people have prejudice. It means that people have different thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially regarding attitude changes and behavioral decisions. Therefore, people conceptualize their world using some mental shortcuts to organize it, e.g. all American people are overweight; all Russians drink vodka; all homeless people are alike, etc.

Elimination of Prejudice

Prejudice might be eliminated in several ways. The first way is acquainting prejudiced people with the members of minority groups they are prejudiced against and teaching them to think rationally and make conclusions from their own experience, not from whose words. The Contact Theory tells that interaction between Whites and representative members of minorities might reduce the prejudice in both groups. It is possible to get this goal if only three conditions are met. The contact should be between individuals of equal status on equal ground. The interaction should be sustained. The short conversation cannot decrease the prejudice. Daily contact between two individuals, who are belonging to different ethnic or social groups, will destroy the prejudice. The other condition of beneficial destroying the prejudice is equally agreed on social norms by participants.


This essay presents to readers different types of stereotypes as a popular belief about specific features of people that belong to a specific social group. Based on stereotypes, there appear prejudices, discrimination, and racism. There is some chain about these phenomena. Prejudice is an attitude, discrimination is an action, and racism is a directed negative treatment of racial or ethnic groups. Consequently, racism includes either attitude or behavior.

Religious, racial, political, or other prejudices make a ground for international misunderstanding. Stereotypes, bias, prejudice, and discrimination have an illusory correlation with reality. That is why they lead people to misunderstand racial wars. Therefore, it is very important to know how to avoid and prevent stereotype creation.

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