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Judge a Book by Its Cover



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One of the earliest lessons that children learn from their parents and teachers are to be kind to others and not to judge a book by its cover. It is unacceptable to encounter other people, groups or cultures with pre-determined sets of ideas that reveal to be oversimplified
conceptions. Regarding this issue, the terms prejudice and stereotype are often used interchangeably since it is not easy to draw a clear line between them. However, lumping them together is not a justified simplification but an incorrect pitfall. The term stereotype
has a much longer history than the word prejudice (Marx & Ko, 2019). Whereas stereotypes are multifactorial and refer to overgeneralizations or beliefs that can be both, positive and negative, prejudices are always just of a hostile nature (Cambridge Dictionary). Negative
stereotypes such as “women aren’t as smart as a men” and prejudices like “all Jews are greedy and manipulative” are helpful for none and harmful for some. Nevertheless, stereotypes are in contrast to prejudices more than just ascriptions negative characteristics
groups of people, but can also function as positive, powerful tools that help to order information, to facilitate social human interaction, and to boost people´s intellectual performance. Information-processing strategies that result in stereotype-based images prevent humans from cognitive overload. Humans are exposed to a constant flow of information as well as sensory and audio stimulations. The psychologists Atkinson and Shiffrin proposed a
model which describes how the human brain processes information in 1968 (McLeod, 2017).

According to their model, the Multi Store Model of Memory, every stimuli enters the human mind due to a sensory register. Even if not all information will be stored in the long-term memory, the brain has, nevertheless, to cope with an enormous amount of data that can
easily result in brain overload (Lesley). Having pre-existing schemes in the mind can prevent the neural system from paralysis. For instance, the knowledge about the stereotype that women are “more communal” than men can serve as a crucial facilitation for social
interaction (Eagly & Steffen, 1984, p. 735). If the human brain had no predetermined schemes, it would be impossible to cope with the multitude of stimulations in everyday situations due to a sensory overload. Stereotypes are not only powerful tools that help to order information but also provide fundamental knowledge about cultural differences which are common repositories for misunderstandings. There is a general consensus among researchers that time is “an integral aspect of human life” which is cultural dependent (Fulmer et al., 2015). Learning the concept of time is like learning to speak, it is a key to understand and communicate with other people. Since time is experienced by different cultures differently, societies have not the same interpretation of punctuality. Whereas in western countries punctuality is considered of great importance, in the Middle-East it is common to be unpunctual (Xiaoyun, 2018).

It seems to be predetermined that such cultural differences must lead to conflicts. Considering the situation that a child moves from China to Germany and attends the German school without knowing that punctuality is treated of great importance, it is predictable that such a cross-cultural encounter ends up in a disaster. However, if people are taught cultural differences through intercultural training, scenarios like this would not be problematic
anymore. Positive stereotypes are not harmful but rather helpful by boosting people´s intellectual performance and increasing their self-efficacy. When children learn how to differentiate negative from positive stereotypes by intercultural training, it will be possible to eliminate the bad ones and to reinforce the good ones. In a paper of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers argue that positive stereotypes provide interpersonal and intrapersonal advantages (Czopp et al., 2015). Stereotypes such as “old people are wiser” or “Asians are good at math” can serve as a powerful booster that encourages people to perform better.

The term positive priming describes how the mental state can be controlled due to an exposure to a stimulus (McLennan et al. 2019). Provided that positive expectations toward others can decrease self-doubt and increase self-efficacy, positive stereotypes should be treated as a helpful tool. If a child believes in its mathematical talent, it will work harder to be better and eventually achieve better grades – a good example of a self-fulfilling
prophecy. The metaphorical phrase “do not judge a book by its cover” needs to be reconsidered in the light of positive stereotyping. Stereotypes are helpful for the human brain, crucial for cross-cultural encounter and beneficial for intellectual performance. There is no denying that oversimplified images of other people, groups and cultures can have harmful consequences upon all spheres of life. If people were more sensitive to stereotypes, it would be possible to dismantle barriers and remove misunderstandings that are based on fixed images that do not reflect reality but rather irrationality that is wrongly considered to be normality. When Albert Einstein wisely stated, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change,” he probably attempted to say that only a person who constantly questions their own assumptions and is willing to challenge misconceptions is truly intelligent. There is just on way to improve the quality of interpersonal human interaction – by being open, helpful,
respectful and kind.

Sources:

Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.) Prejudice. Cambridge University Press.

Czopp, A. M., Kay, A. C., & Cheryan, S. (2015). Positive Stereotypes Are Pervasive and
Powerful. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(4), 451–463.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615588091

Eagly, A. L. H. & Steffen, V. J. (1984). Gender Stereotypes Stem From the Distribution of
Women and Men Into Social Roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
46(4), 735–754.

Fulmer, A. C., Crosby, B., & Gelfand, M. (2014, March 11). Cross-cultural Perspectives on
Time. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382690_Cross-
cultural_Perspectives_on_Time

Lesley University. (n.d.). Why Brain Overload Happens. Retrieved November 14, 2020, from
https://lesley.edu/article/why-brain-overload-happens

Marx, D. & Ko, S. J. (2019, May 28). Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology.
Stereotypes and Prejudices. ResearcheGate. https://www.researchgate.
net/publication/331998922_Stereotypes_and_prejudice

McLennan, K. S., Neumann, E. & Russell, P. N. (2019, January 15). Positive and negative
priming differences between short-term and long-term identity coding of word-
specific attentional priorities. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics.

McLeod, S. A. (2017, February 5). Multi store model of memory. Simply Psychology.

Multi-Store Memory Model: Atkinson and Shiffrin

Xiaoyun, H. (2018). The Difference of Time Culture Between Eastern And Western View. A
Linguistic Perspective. Francis Academic Press, UK. https://www.
webofproceedings.org/proceedings_series/ESSP/EMCS%202018/EMCS15157.pdf

Moi! I am born and raised in The Netherlands but my parents are from Turkey, I also lived the past 8-9 years of my life there before coming to Finland :). I am interested in psychology, books & movies. Therefore you could expect a lot more essays about these topics but I will try to integrate writing about Business in the long run...

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