Ben Fincher

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Are we pre-dispositioned to make stereotypes?

According to Jeff Hawkins our brains work by making patterns and predicting that they'll continue to be true. Do you think stereotypes are included in these generalizations our brains are hardwired to make? How could this affect how we combat stereotyping in settings like the workplace?

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    Aug 19 2011: My brain does what I tell it to do.

    Sometimes I fall into bad old habits (generalising because of laziness) and sometimes I force a rethink and a reforming of a habit of mind (full of effort).

    I don't hold much stock in claims that DNA, genes, brain chemistry are what solely determine our behaviour.
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      Aug 21 2011: Hi Scott, thanks for your response. Your brain also does things you don't tell it to, like breathing. You don't think that the things our brains do subconsciously affect our decision-making and the way we assess our world? Of course I have no way of knowing, but I feel like if we knew we also had to partition part of our brainpower to focus on breathing, then maybe the way our brains processed information would be different.

      I also don't believe that genes and brain chemistry don't SOLELY determine our behavior, but I do believe they have influence over us. Of course we have people on both sides, those who think they hold great sway over us and those who think they barely influence us at all. "Nature vs. nurture"-esque, eh? Anyway, as we get closer to being able to pinpoint how much power genes have over us, I'm excited to see what we find.
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    Aug 18 2011: Yes, we are. They are not necessarily bad unless they exclude people or things without proper conscious reasoning.
    Sterotypes in the workplace are an excellent example a place where we must override stereotypical thinking and challenge them to make a better workplace and society.
  • Aug 18 2011: Yes, we are, its part of the mechanism that allows as to recognize someone 100 meters away, our brains look for patterns, shapes, colors, movements, sounds and that stuff, stereotypes allow us to assume a bulk of information about a person at first sight.

    The problem with stereotypes is when we attach negative connotations to them that are not accurate just for the heck of it, like "Nerds are introverted social freaks" or "black people are bad" or "women belong in the kitchen".

    If we were more careful about them stereotypes could be a great tool for us, I think this is why most psychologists like to use the word "profile" in stead of stereotype when they refer to the stereotype a given patient of them fits in.
  • Aug 18 2011: There is nothing wrong with stereotyping, so long as we don't close our minds off to that stereotype and simplistically judge everyone we see based upon that stereotype. It's a necessary mental function with controllable downside, as long as we're willing to be open-minded!
  • Aug 25 2011: Yes. First impressions are made within 30 seconds of meeting someone. They may not be stereotypical however... Black people naming their kids odd names and Asian parents drilling their kids to death just add to the stereotypes. But if they were to act like White people then there would be no diversity. I'd rather be stereotyped than have everyone be the same no matter what the race or religion or sex.
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    Aug 21 2011: Thanks for all your thoughts, guys! Most of you have answered along the same lines as I was originally thinking- "yes, and they're useful as long as they're used in moderation and not taken to exaggerated extremes." When I think of stereotypes in a societal mind-frame, I think of negativity and racism. Is that a personal flaw or is it human nature to focus on the negatives (that seems to be the case on the news). So, do you think it'd be possible to keep stereotypes positives, or maybe at least keep them moderate? Can we turn stereotypes from hurtful, dividing categorizing into helpful, social rules-of-thumb?