How Sociological Studies Foster Stereotyping

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"How Sociological Studies Foster Stereotyping"
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Because sociology studies groups and the effects of group inclusion (or exclusion) on individuals, it has to look at attitudes, attributes and behaviors that people have in common. If it focused entirely on personal uniqueness, the results would have little sociological meaning.

I think, however, it's important to acknowledge that there are potential risks. "Commonalities" can quite easily become generalizations, and generalizations can crystallize into stereotypes. A study of red-headed pickpockets in Great Clipperdon, only tells you about red-headed pickpockets in Great Clipperdon. But there will always be those who imagine it extends to all redheads, all pickpockets or every citizen of Great Clipperdon. Unfortunately, this is one of the dangers and I don't think there's any way to prevent it.

Another problem is when behaviors common to a particular group are misjudged as ONLY coming from that group. If it is observed, for example, that all members of the Tomato Gang where red t-shirts, you can't assume that everyone who wears a red t-shirt is a member of the Tomato Gang. The findings only go one way, they can't be reversed ... like plums and prunes.

Sociological studies are like any new information or technology. They can be helpful if conducted correctly and used wisely, but there are no guarantees that this will always happen. Ironically, sociology itself might predict that you increase the risk of stereotyping when you present your observations on one group to people who belong to a different one.

More about this author: Adele Gregory

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