Negative stereotypes are oversimplified and inaccurate beliefs about groups of people. They are harmful because they can lead to discrimination, prejudice, and a phenomenon called stereotype threat.
Some common negative stereotypes include the belief that women are not leaders and men are not caring.
The problem with stereotypes is that they ascribe individualistic characteristics to entire groups of people. They lead to bias – both conscious and subconscious – which colors people’s perceptions of others before they even meet them.
1) Mexican people are lazy.
The lazy Mexican stereotype is a common cultural stereotype about Mexicans. It suggests that Mexicans are lazy, unproductive, and unintelligent.
The origins of the stereotype are unclear, but it has been used to justify discrimination and prejudice against Mexicans for centuries and this belief perseveres in cultural discourse to this day.
The stereotype gained prominence in the United States during the mid-19th century, when large numbers of Mexicans immigrated to the country. At that time, many Americans were afraid of Mexican immigrants who seemed unfamiliar to the white protestant locals.
The stereotype was used to demonize Mexicans and justify their exclusion from American society. Today, the stereotype is still used to rationalize discrimination against Mexicans, even though it is baseless and offensive.
2) Black women are angry.
The stereotype of the “angry black woman” is one that has been used to silence and discredit black women for centuries.
The earliest known use of the term was in an 1852 newspaper article that described an African American woman as an “angry she-monster.”
Since then, the stereotype has been used to paint black women as aggressive, loud, and unreasonable. This harmful caricature has been used to justify everything from slavery to Jim Crow laws to police brutality.
In recent years, the stereotype has been weaponized against prominent black women like Congresswoman Maxine Waters and former First Lady Michelle Obama. These women have been denounced as “unruly” and “unfeminine” simply because they dare to speak their minds.
Related: The 9 Types of Stereotypes
3) Asians are bad drivers.
The stereotype of the bad Asian driver is a longstanding one, dating back to the early days of automobile ownership.
Like many stereotypes, it singles out minorities for no reason and with no basis. Studies show that there is no clear evidence that Asians are any worse at driving than any other group.
In fact, one Australian study found Asian-born drivers were about half as likely to get into car accidents as Australian-born drivers.
Still, the stereotype persists, likely due to a combination of racism and xenophobia.
4) Poor people are lazy.
There are a number of reasons why people may think poor people are lazy. One reason may be that they have never been exposed to poverty firsthand and so they have no understanding of the circumstances that many poor people find themselves in.
Some people may believe that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they just try hard enough, and so they see laziness as the reason why some people remain poor.
This stereotype is often perpetuated by the media, which focuses on stories of individual success rather than systemic issues like poverty.
In reality, many poor people work hard but still cannot make ends meet. Poverty is often the result of factors beyond an individual’s control. For example, they may have not had the resources to get ahead, such as not having a car, which makes it difficult to get to and from work or even job interviews.
5) The dumb blonde stereotype.
The dumb blonde stereotype is perpetuated by popular culture, including comedies, advertisements, and cartoons.
An early iteration of this stereotype was pushed by Marilyn Monroe who played up a vision of a swooning, unintelligent, passive, and submissive woman. This image was created to appeal to the male gaze in the 1950s.
Later iterations include Jessica Simpson, who again played up the dumb blonde image to appeal to the male gaze and promote her music and television shows.
The dumb blonde stereotype reinforces negative and untrue ideas about women as less intelligent or capable as men.
6) Rich people are heartless.
The stereotype of the heartless rich person is one that has been around for centuries. It is based on the false idea that people who are wealthy are somehow unable to empathize with the plight of the poor.
This stereotype can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the aristocracy was seen as a separate and superior class.
While there may be many wealthy people who are detached from the lives of the poor and don’t understand their lived experiences, many others do engage in substantial philanthropy.
For example, two of the wealthiest men in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, initiated The Giving Pledge which was designed to get billionaires to give away 50% of their money to charity. They got others to sign on, including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
While some people would see this as evidence that many wealthy people are generous with their money, others would argue that this is not nearly enough given the amount of suffering in the world.
7) The passive woman stereotype.
The passive woman stereotype is one that has been around for centuries and is based on the false idea that women are somehow less capable or intelligent than men.
This stereotype was created by the patriarchy which created the idealized woman as someone who would sit back and let the man do all the action.
Feminism has worked to overturn this stereotype and create a world where women are able to speak for themselves, take leadership roles, and be more assertive without being seen with suspicion.
8) The macho man stereotype.
The macho man stereotype is one that is often used to idealize men who are aggressive and unemotional. This stereotype is harmful because it perpetuates the idea that men must act a certain way in order to be considered masculine.
It also leads to the mistreatment of women, as well as violence and homophobia.
Defenders of the stereotype say that we need strong men to protect women and society in general from disorder. Strong men may be necessary for, for example, fighting in wars and completing hard labor tasks.
However, this ignores the fact that strong men can also be gentle and emotionally intelligent.
9) The dumb jock stereotype.
The term “dumb jock” is a high school stereotype typically used to describe athletes who are perceived as being more concerned with their physical appearance and athletic ability than with their intelligence or academic achievement.
While there are certainly some athletes who fit this stereotype, it is important to remember that there is a wide range of intelligence and academic ability among athletes.
In fact, many athletes are highly intelligent and successful in both academics and athletics. The term “dumb jock” is, therefore, a harmful stereotype that should be avoided.
10) Women who marry older men are gold diggers.
The gold digger stereotype is a popular cultural image of a woman who is primarily interested in a man for his money.
This stereotype is often used in movies and TV shows, where the woman is portrayed as shallow and materialistic. It’s even employed in songs such as the song Gold Digger by Kanye West.
The gold digger stereotype can be harmful, as it reinforces the idea that women are only interested in men for their wealth.
This can lead people to question the sincerity of rich men’s relationships with their wives and girlfriends, and can also make it harder for wives of wealthy men to be taken seriously in business and other fields.
11) French people are arrogant.
The stereotype that French people are arrogant is a common one based on the idea that the French are lovers of high culture. For example, France is associated with fine wine and Renaissance art.
Additionally, the French language is notoriously difficult to learn, and many French people view speaking English as a sign of weakness. As a result, it is not surprising that some English speakers might perceive the French as being arrogant.
However, it is important to remember that not all stereotypes are accurate, and it would be unfair to judge an entire nation based on the actions of a few.
12) Minorities get jobs due to their minority status.
A more recent stereotype following the rise of affirmative action is that all minorities (particularly women and people of color) utilize their social status as minorities to get jobs.
his stereotype is harmful because it paints all minorities as being lazy and unqualified. It also reinforces the false idea that minorities are not capable of succeeding without help from affirmative action programs.
In reality, affirmative action programs seek to level the playing field for minorities who have been historically marginalized and discriminated against. Without affirmative action, these groups would have even fewer opportunities in the workforce.
13) All police are racist.
The racist cop stereotype is a harmful one that casts all police officers as being inherently racist. This stereotype can lead to tension and distrust between the police and the minority communities they are supposed to protect.
While systemic racism does exist in many police forces, it is unfair and inaccurate to paint all police officers with the same brush. There are many dedicated and hardworking police officers who are committed to serving and protecting all members of their community, regardless of race or ethnicity.
14) Men are better at math than women.
The gender stereotype that men are better at math than women is a harmful one that has been around for centuries. This stereotype is often used to justify the gender gap in math and science fields.
However, research has shown that the math skills of men and women are actually quite comparable. In fact, there are many women who excel in math and science. When boys get high grades than girls in math, it can often be accounted for by other factors such as cultural attitudes that teach girls that they shouldn’t be interested in math.
15) Old people are forgetful.
One of the most common negative stereotypes about elderly people is that they are forgetful. This simply isn’t true for everyone. In fact, some older adults remain sharp and clear-headed well into their golden years.
To paint all elderly people with the same brush is unfair and inaccurate. It can lead to discrimination against elderly workers and force them into retirement before they are ready.
And in fact, this stereotype has been shown to reduce memory function because their family and carers set low expectations. They take tasks requiring memory out of the elderly person’s hands, meaning they end up exercising their memory less.
Here, we can see an example of a stereotype causing reality, rather than the other way around.
Generally, negative stereotypes are formed very early on in an interaction with a person or group, and according to the stereotype content model, they’re based on two factors: perceived warmth and perceived competence.
Stereotypes ignore the fact that there are many different types of people, and that individuals should not be judged based on the group they belong to. They are also harmful because they can lead to discrimination and prejudice. It is important to remember that not all stereotypes are accurate, and everyone should be treated as an individual.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.