In our human nature, it is common for us to quickly judge and categorise others, attributing certain characteristics to them. One way we categorise people is by their profession, assuming that politicians, teachers, doctors, or policemen possess typical character traits. Gender stereotypes also exist, ascribing specific characteristics to men and women. Additionally, national stereotypes encompass the presumed traits that members of the same country are believed to share, which can either be positive or negative. To illustrate the prevalence and impact of national stereotypes, let's look at a few examples shared on the social news website Hacker News:
andybak on June 19, 2017
There's an old joke where in Heaven the cooks are French, the policemen are English, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and the bankers are Swiss - whereas in Hell the cooks are English, the policemen are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and the bankers are Italian.
bitwize on June 19, 2017
I've heard the joke told as: Canada could have had English culture, French cuisine, and American industry... instead it has American culture, English cuisine, and French industry.
Stereotypes have complex and multifaceted causes, influenced by a range of factors such as individual psychology, social dynamics, and cultural norms. Let's explore some common causes:
- Limited experience: Stereotypes often stem from limited experience and knowledge of individuals or groups. This absence of diverse experiences can lead individuals to make generalisations and assumptions based on their narrow understanding. Consequently, inaccurate and distorted ideas about someone may form.
- Cognitive biases: Stereotypes often arise from cognitive biases, which are mental shortcuts that individuals use to simplify complex information and make judgements about others. These biases can lead individuals to categorise others based on their appearance, behaviour or other characteristics, and to form stereotypes based on these perceptions.
- Social conditioning: Stereotypes are often reinforced by social conditioning, the process by which individuals are taught to accept and internalise cultural norms and values. Through social conditioning, individuals may learn to view others in ways that conform to cultural stereotypes and to act on these views without question.
- Media and entertainment: Stereotypes often arise from the portrayal of individuals and groups in the media and entertainment industries, which can reinforce and perpetuate existing stereotypes.
It is important to recognise that stereotypes are not solely limited to how we perceive others. They also impact how we view ourselves and our own culture (self-stereotypes) and how we perceive
people from other cultures (hetero-stereotypes). For instance, common stereotypes about Germans and what they reveal about the people who hold them are intriguing areas to explore.
The sketch When an exchange student comes to Germany (2022, 3:19 min) gives us an idea of Irish stereotypes of Germans (and perhaps not only Irish stereotypes). It was produced by Foil Arms and Hog, an Irish sketch comedy group formed in 2008 that performs on TV, radio, online, such as YouTube and Instagram, and at gigs. The sketch has been well received by viewers, as the following comment shows:
As a former exchange student in Germany, this is spot on. So many fond memories of the beautiful country. So many well organized, orderly, and efficient times :)