Emotional Intelligence Social

Do you know the differences between stereotype and prejudice?

estereotipos y prejuicios

The concepts stereotype and prejudice are often confused with assiduity. However, from social psychology are concepts with different nuances. Generally, both concepts are used to define negative attitudes that in the end are the result of social inequalities or discriminatory processes. But do you really know the difference between stereotype and prejudice? Let’s try to explain it in a simple way with some examples.

What is a stereotype?

We can define stereotype as that consensus of opinion regarding the characteristics (traits, behaviors, etc.) attributed to a group. That is, stereotypes are organized beliefs or ideas about the characteristics associated with different social groups, such as the physical aspect, interests, occupations, ethnicities, etc. They are images, ideas, opinions or interpretations about the elements of a group in a simplified way.

But are all the interpretations we make always negative interpretations? No. A stereotype can be positive, negative or even neutral. For example, believing that all German tourists go in flip-flops and socks can have a negative or positive interpretation depending on the value each one makes on that characteristic of the group. Categorizing a person as a “geek” simply because he or she likes computers or videogames is another example of a simplified idea that can be taken negatively or positively, depending on the context. A stereotype that could be categorized as positive might be, for example, to believe that all Japanese are disciplined. However, and unfortunately, they often highlight or transcend more negative stereotypes, such as the false belief that all blond women are silly. And is that many times stereotypes are generated by cognitive distortions of reality.

Why do we create stereotypes?

Stereotypes, according to Allport (1954), perform categorization functions (simplification of the stimulating universe); Defense of values ​​(they maintain positive distinctiveness for the endogroup, especially when the status quo can be brought to light) and maintaining the status quo (facilitates control of the dominant ideology in context).

>> Related Article: How Cognitive Biases Affect Our Daily Decisions

What is a prejudice?

Well, a prejudice is an attitude, usually of rejection, towards the members of a group. It is an unjustified reaction to a person originated by the person’s belonging to a particular social group. Prejudices are the positive and negative feelings and emotions you have about a social group and its members.

For example, when a person reacts negatively when he sees a woman parking badly, or when a person grabs his bag with force so that they do not steal it when a person of color enters the subway. Obviously, both beliefs are erroneous, stereotyped, and become negative prejudices when used emotionally or emotionally (frustration in the car, defense in the subway). If there was no such reaction, that attitude, there would be only the stereotype.

As with stereotypes, not all prejudices are negative. There are positive biases, for example when you pay more attention or you pay more attention to a person in a suit, as if the suit gives the person good qualities. There may even be hidden prejudices, such as unconscious racism (see video).

Difference between stereotype and prejudice.

Therefore, what sets the stereotype apart from prejudice is the attitude shown, the reaction. A stereotype (positive or negative) is a justified opinion of cognitive component and the component of prejudice would be affective and irrational and unfair, is a negative attitude (or positive if it is the case). So, we could say that a stereotype could trigger a prejudiced attitude (negative or positive).

>> Related article: Unconscious racism [VIDEO].

To summarize, an example, the stereotype that women are the best candidates to perform secretarial duties could trigger a negative prejudice towards a good male candidate, discarding the selection process for the simple fact of being male, or Either the coworkers themselves might have negative prejudicial attitudes toward a man for performing “women’s” work.

Another example of a stereotype is the idea that all politicians are corrupt, negative prejudice would occur when despite not knowing whether those in your city are or not, not to vote as a negative attitude before the group of politicians.

There are millions of examples of prejudices and stereotypes. Do you know how to identify them better? Would you be able to put examples of stereotype and prejudice?



Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading: Addison-Wesley. 

Morales, J.F., Huici. C. (2003). Psicología Social. Madrid: UNED

Sobre el autor

Iván Pico

Graduado en Psicología (UNED). Nº Colegiado G-5480. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales (USC). Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y las Organizaciones. (INESEM). Máster Universitario Oficial en Orientación Profesional (UNED). Posgrado en Neuromarketing (Universidad Camilo José Cela). Técnico Deportivo Nivel II, fútbol sala (RFEF). Especialista en Psicología Aplicada al Deporte. Etc, etc…
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