This month’s Socrates Café question:

“Are stereotypes beneficial?”

As always, java and opinions flowed freely. Participants with additional thoughts, members who where unable to attend and remote philosophers are invited to add their two cents (or any denomination of intellectual change).

8 Responses to “July ’08 Socrates Café”
  1. Jordan says:

    I think that too frequently, stereotypes are given a bad reputation for the wrong reasons. There are correct and incorrect uses of stereotypes, and in essence, they are no different from a personal judgment – only they are the collective judgment of our societies. Judgments help us to evaluate people and categorize things without much effort. It would be difficult to classify the world around us with categorizing it.

    Unfortunately, many people often use stereotypes as their primary source of judgment. This is simply wrong. To say that blond women are dumb, for instance, is a ridiculous statement. It’s obviously not true and could be potentially hurtful to people (mostly blond women!). Still, stereotypes, in combination with personal experience, can save us some time and frustration.

    If you continually notice a stereotype to be true with the same types of people, and it bothers you, you can stay away from those people. This saves us from being let down in the long run. With so many people in the world today, it is an unfortunate truth that we must prioritize who we meet, and to what extend we get to know them. If stereotypes help us to meet the people that we get along with more quickly, then they’re not so bad.

    One of the biggest mistake i think people make though, is to stereotype a culture. Different societies are different, and this will inevitably make all of the people from one society strange, in the eyes of another. Instead of taking those differences, and making them into something negative though, you can give yourself a perspective on that person, and try to understand the stereotypes. There are probably good reasons for people to be stereotyped. Many of those things may hold true, but they may also not. We need to be more objective with our observations and give that person a chance to explain why they are like they are.

    Sooooo, after all that – stereotypes can certainly be beneficial, when used correctly. They can also be extremely negative, and place fictitious divides in between people. Be careful how you generalize!

    Wow that was a whole bunch of fun. Todd, love the site – keep it comin

  2. Ninja says:

    To be honest, I think that there are way too many stereotypes and archetypes that have sprouted from wherever to make the act of classifying anyone into one practical. Then again, I don’t like people, and I don’t like classifying. Hmm.

  3. Ron says:

    Stereotypes do indicate observation and learning, and though they don’t replace experience – they can surely prevent wasted time and efforts. That said, after our discussion at Milkboy (1st Monday of every month at 7:00pm in Bryn Mawr), I feel that human beings are so maliable and capable of change and growth that it is dangerous to stereotype them. There are so many times where a mass stereotype seems to hold true of the mass, but breaks down when you try to apply it to an individual from within that mass. It reminds me of how physics theories hold so beautifully mathmatically true on a large scale – and predict physical phenomena with astonishing accuracy, yet break down when the numbers and scales get too small. Particles should seem to act a certain way but when observed they don’t. I think people are like that too. I think Steven Hawking once said (or typed) that human beings are not quantifiable. They don’t fit patterns and equations and numbers. Maybe it’s why artificial intelligence eludes us. I suspect it always will. I think you can easily say that meeting any person for the 1st time is NEVER exactly what you expected. So maybe they did meet certain stereotypes you held previously, but they probably also broke others leading to a net result of stereotypes not working.

  4. RYAN says:


  5. Todd Marrone says:

    You know what they say about people who type in all capital letters…

  6. Ronnie B says:

    Stereotypes are silly and are an excuse for not getting to know individuals.

  7. RYAN says:


  8. Kristina says:

    I think that, for the most part, people choose their own stereotype. A guy wearing a tank top, fake tan, big muscles, hat turned backwards… he knows what stereotypical category others are putting him in. Likewise, the woman with tons of makeup, super-tight clothes, high heels, maybe a little thong hanging out the back – she knows what image she’s putting forth too. Big strong tough guy, covered in tattoos, big black motorcycle boots, long hair, knows how people see him. Clearly people find the stereotypical category that they have groomed themselves to fall into to be beneficial.

    Unfortunately, there are those who don’t get to pick their stereotype. Remember the overweight boys and girls, maybe they had an acne problem, maybe they wore goofy glasses, usually their clothes were wildly out of style and often ill-fitting? Yeah you do. If they were lucky they were really smart, so at least they had Valedictorian and National Honor Society going for them. But the other ones, that were in the lower academic tracks and were lucky to have a couple of friends…. we should all bow our heads in shame because I know that at some point every one of us put them in the “LOSER” category, or whatever variation on Loser you may have used (geek, nerd, etc.) For these students, stereotypes are certainly not beneficial, just sad.