Are There Benefits to Stereotyping?

With the recent hate crime hoax at the Air Force Academy, I decided to look at the machinations of racism from a scientific perspective. Namely, is there a reason why humans tend to be prejudiced, and are there benefits to stereotyping? Find out in this episode of Manthropology.

Now imagine, if you will, that it’s tens of millenia ago, you’re in the most basic unit of human interaction: the extended family clan/tribe. About 200 or so primitives struggling to eke out a living day to day. Suddenly, you get word of another group of people on the other side of the hill or whatever. You need to collate information about them, and quick, to know if they are friend or foe. Obviously you can’t just google them or look them up in an encyclopedia. Are you starting to get my meaning?

You’ve gotta stereotype them, in order to make a quick judgment of friend or foe for the sake of your people. Now, bear in mind that these stereotypes do not have to be inter-racial, they can quite easily be intra-racial, and a glance at any continent will tell you this. Just looking at them, can you tell the difference between, say, an Englishman and a Welshman? I can’t, but that doesn’t stop the two from stereotyping each other at the best of times. Stereotypes certainly don’t have to be about race, but considering that dividing groups into “us and them” is a human trait as old as time, you’ve gotta reach for the quickest, most noticeable difference, which often is race. And if race doesn’t provide a distinguishable difference, you reach for something else

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