Saturday, August 11, 2018
The Danger of Stereotyping
“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
- Robertson Davies, author
As human beings, we tend to think that we are rational creatures who see the world the way it really is, but what we don’t realize is that we often unconsciously seek out information that tends to confirm our current views, and we often dismiss information that disconfirms our long-held perspectives.
This is true of so many facets of our lives, and we often are unaware of the fact that we do this. We convince ourselves that we give all information a fair and equal treatment, but we generally don’t because analyzing information takes more cognitive work, and the fear of being wrong and of having to set aside past views can at times be paralyzing. You would think it would be liberating to learn more, but our current perspectives may have been so much a part of our identify that letting go can be deeply uncomfortable.
As a result, we tend to see only what our mind is prepared to see.
Where I see this play out in my work is the fact that students often hold certain stereotypes about people from other cultures, and unfortunately at times, don’t seek out new information to debunk views that aren’t accurate.
As a result, students sometimes feel uncomfortable, disappointed, or hurt when other people claim this or that about their country that only misrepresents its people. Broad sweeping statements like, “Yeah, I know that people in your country ________.” You can fill in the blank. I’ve even seen students deeply hurt over characterizations that aren’t true.
And rather than limiting my comment to just international students, this thinking error plagues all of us—-teachers, organizations—-and people like Randall.
All this said, I have also seen relationships built when people come together because they were ready to listen and learn with open minds and hearts.
So the next time you are absolutely, 249% sure that your view represents reality, stop and ask yourself if you have analyzed all relevant information before arriving at your ironclad conclusion. Chances are you haven’t.
Have you ever seen such examples in your own life? Feel free to share.
Posted by Randall Davis at 9:17 PM