I am arguing with a friend. She hates the use of stereotypes because she thinks that they condition the society in a bad way, but isn't that also a stereotype? I might know about a stereotype but not necessarily act differently because of it. If someone tells me "software developers love Star Wars movie" it's not the case that I will feel compeled to watch the movie or even like it. Why should you put me in the same bag as the others?

Please help me understand.

3 Answers 3


You are conflating the idea of a stereotype, and the idea of a generalization. A stereotype is a particular type of generalization that infers one set of personal traits, such as intelligence, personality, or interests, from another, generally unrelated set of traits, such as gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

The usual argument against stereotypes is that the kinds of connections they make are typically spurious. Even if you believe that, however, that does not mean that all generalizations are therefore invalid. There are many many types of generalizations that have nothing to do with stereotypes.

Your friend's argument is actually a bit more nuanced --she isn't arguing that stereotypes are wrong, but that they are socially harmful. As it turns out, this is actually a topic with a fair amount of scientific research behind it, which indicates that stereotypes do indeed consistently and significantly impact us, in the statistical aggregate, even if we do not consciously affirm them. So your friend's argument is underwritten by science, while yours is not.

  • So, only if there is no science proof I can call it stereotype? Otherwise it's a generalization? Because Wikipedia says "These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.". Notice the "may". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype
    – Martin
    Oct 9, 2017 at 18:03
  • @Martin I've edited to be more clear. Your friend's argument is a generalization, but not a stereotype, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, and has nothing directly to do with whether stereotypes can be valid or not. As it turns out, her position matches the current science. The question of whether stereotypes can be valid is a separate one, so I edited to clarify. Oct 9, 2017 at 18:33

Your counter-argument does not make much sense.

She is saying that she hates the use of stereotypes. Your counter-argument says that you "know" of a stereotype but are not acting differently because of it. But then you are not using a stereotype. Hence, she is not talking about you.

The people she is talking about are those that actually use a stereotype. But she is not stereotyping those people either, since, by definition, when you use a stereotype, you have been conditioned to think in a certain way.

Perhaps you'd like to rephrase your question? I think, the way you have stated it, you are both talking past each other.

  • My counter argument is that saying that "stereotypes condition people to act differently" is in itself a stereotype. So you are against the use of stereotypes but you are using one anyways. It's a contradiction.
    – Martin
    Oct 9, 2017 at 16:41


It appears you miss a context your friend is expressing. She is saying "if people stereotype, then they are conditioned in society to act a certain way. There is a hidden statement expressed about when people are conditioned a certain way. But here you go denying the antecedant: you are not one who stereotypes but KNOWS of some stereotypes. You are enroute to fallacious reasoning. You cannot deny the antecedant and formally conclude anything about the argument. Your friend is winning. Even in the event she is stereotyping her act is hypocritiical not a contradicriion. A hypocrite is one who speaks one way and acts out a different way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.