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Alcohol and Mental Health

Understanding and Combating Stereotypes

Published:
September 28, 2023
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18 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
September 28, 2023
·
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
September 28, 2023
·
18 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
September 28, 2023
·
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
September 28, 2023
·
18 min read

Have you ever been stereotyped? Maybe someone said you wouldn’t make a good leader because you’re a woman. Or maybe someone ridiculed you for shedding tears because men are supposed to be strong and non-emotional. Being stereotyped can leave you feeling frustrated, angry, and unvalued. Where do these stereotypes even come from, anyway, and what can we do to combat them? 

In this post, we’ll explore various types of stereotypes, why they’re so problematic, and what we can do to overcome them. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Stereotype?

Stereotypes are widely held, fixed, and over-generalized ideas about a particular type of person or group. They come in all forms and fashions, and are often based on popular cultural depictions of groups or on deeply-held beliefs. For instance, two common stereotypes are that women are weak and men are egotistical.

While stereotypes are rarely correct, they aren’t always negative. In fact, some stereotypes cast a positive light on a group or type of person. For instance, common positive stereotypes are that people of Asian descent are good at math, African Americans are fast runners, and gay men have good taste. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes are more common. 

Let’s take a closer look at the five most common types of negative stereotypes: 

  • Cultural stereotypes. These include harmful beliefs and misconceptions about individuals or entire cultures. For instance, people might say, “people from X culture are ignorant and rude,” “people from X culture are violent or uncivilized,” or “people from X culture are lazy.” 
  • Social stereotypes. Whether it’s the jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, or goths in school or the lone wolf at work, people sometimes make assumptions about different social groups based on their characteristics, economic class, age, skills, etc. For instance, people might say, “People from X class are snobby and arrogant,” “people from X group are shallow and selfish,” or “X group is unfriendly and prudish.” 
  • Racial stereotypes. These stereotypes are particularly harmful to others and can result in discrimination and even violence. They contribute to misconceptions about and inequality among groups because they reduce individual or collective experiences to a few characteristics that do not apply to everyone. For instance, people might say, “X race is superior to Y race,” “X race is unintelligent,” or “X race is violent and dangerous.” 
  • Gender stereotypes. People of different genders have always been compared and contrasted with each other, but certain stereotypes carry with them an expectation for how men and women should act, speak, dress, and conduct themselves. For instance, people might say, “Women should be polite, accommodating, and nurturing,” “men should be strong, aggressive, and brave,” or “women should stay at home with children.” 
  • Religious stereotypes. Religion is deeply important for billions of people around the world and impacts most people in some way. Religious stereotypes might include things like, “Religious people are judgmental,” “people who practice X religion are dangerous,” or “people of X religion are extremists and hypocrites.”

How Are Stereotypes Formed? 

Stereotypes can develop in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the leading theories:

  • Socialization. Stereotypes are often formed as a result of social learning, the information we’re taught or exposed to while growing up from parents, teachers, or peers. For instance, if in childhood we’re taught that boys are more athletic than girls, we grow up believing this is true. Or if we’re told that poor people are lazy, we’ll tend to view all poor people in this light as we get older. 
  • Illusory correlation. Stereotypes can also develop based on a cognitive mechanism known as illusory correlation — a false inference about the relationship between two events. For instance, if we were the victim of an attack by a young white man, we might make the illusory correlation that all young white men are dangerous.
  • Ingroup biases. This theory suggests that stereotypes form because we tend to have a more positive attitude toward people within the same group compared to others. In other words, we’re more likely to trust others with similar characteristics — such as those who share the same religious beliefs, ethnicity, or political ideologies — while remaining skeptical toward people who are different. 
  • Outgroup biases. Similarly, this theory suggests that we tend to exhibit prejudice and hostility toward members of different groups, such as those with different skin colors, languages, or physical attributes. This type of bias gives rise to the “us versus them” mentality. In other words, we cling to negative stereotypes towards groups whose members are different from ours. 
  • Media representation. Media outlets (books, movies, television shows, internet videos, and other forms of entertainment) can have a powerful influence on our views of certain groups. For instance, depictions of Latino people in the media can lead people to associate immigration with increased unemployment and crime. Hollywood has a history of casting white men as heroes, while erasing or subordinating other groups as villains, sidekicks, or sexual objects. 
Overcoming stereotypes through diversity and inclusion

The Problem With Stereotypes

Even though not all stereotypes are negative, they can all be harmful because they create preconceived ideas or expectations for people that they may not meet. Similarly, they reduce people to certain traits and ignore the individual differences that make us all unique. 

Negative stereotypes can be particularly harmful, threatening our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. In fact, studies have found that attempts to suppress stereotype-related thoughts lead to anxiety and the narrowing of attention, which can affect our level of functioning. 

For example, the stress associated with being labeled a certain way has been shown to disrupt working memory and executive functioning in our brain, increase arousal, and increase self-consciousness, ultimately causing individuals to suppress negative thoughts and emotions. 

One study found that when women were first reminded of the traditional stereotype that women are not as good at math as men and then given a math test, they consistently performed below their potential. Their brains showed heightened activation in the ventral stream of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a neural region associated with social and emotional processing. 

In another study, participants had to perform a task in the face of negative stereotyping. After participants were removed from the situation, they were more likely to be aggressive, lacked self-control, and had trouble making good decisions. They were even more likely to overindulge in carbohydrate-dominant and sugar-filled foods. 

Negative stereotypes can also have a significant impact on how we view ourselves, leading to lower self-confidence, limiting beliefs, and even mental health issues. For instance, one study found gender stereotypes to be one of the root causes of issues with body image and eating disorders among women and rising suicide rates among men. 

Furthermore, stereotypes can lead to assumptions about someone’s abilities or worth and influence our behavior toward them. This can lead to unfair treatment, prejudice, and discrimination. For instance, it’s not uncommon for women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and racial minorities to experience discrimination in the workforce or to be overlooked for promotions. In fact, in 2022, 61% of employees surveyed said discrimination was a problem in their workplace. Sadly, racial discrimination has increased since the beginning of COVID-19, including discrimination targeting Asian and Asian American individuals. 

What Is an Effective Way To Combat Stereotypes?

While we might not be able to avoid stereotypes completely, we can all play a role in combating them. Here are six tips for doing just that:

  1. Acknowledge your biases. The first and most important step to combating stereotypes is to acknowledge that they exist and recognize that they can have detrimental effects on an individual’s well-being. Spend some time thinking about how you might be stereotyping certain people or groups, and examine your own biases and prejudices. Remember: we all have them! Try asking yourself how you think you developed these beliefs. Were you influenced by your parents, teachers, or peers? Has the media played a role? 
  2. Focus on the individual. Every single person is unique. We may share some features with others, but our life and behavior are uniquely shaped by individual circumstances. When interacting with someone new, try focusing on their individuality and their unique characteristics. Question your assumptions, avoid making snap judgments, and try not to classify them as part of a certain “group.” Diversity is beautiful! Just think how boring it would be if we were all identical.
  3. Expose yourself to diverse perspectives. It’s easy to stay in our own little bubbles, but interacting with people who are different from us or who share different ideas and opinions can help combat assumptions we might have made. Plus, we’ll likely learn something new if we remain open and curious. Try listening to podcasts or reading books by people from different backgrounds, listening to music from different cultures, or volunteering for a charitable organization. Learning about other cultures and groups teaches us to appreciate their uniqueness and complexity. 
  4. Foster empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion can play a large role in helping us combat stereotypes by reducing our tendency to judge, blame, or dehumanize others. The truth is that no person is better than another, and we all struggle in our own unique ways. Recognizing this allows us to have sympathy for what other people may be going through, no matter who they are. At the end of the day, we’re all just human! We can foster empathy and compassion by actively listening to others, asking open-ended questions, and imagining what life is like in their shoes. 
  5. Promote inclusivity. We can all play a role in promoting inclusivity in our workplace, local community, church, organization, etc. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives can help foster environments where all individuals are accepted and respected. Ask what your place of work is doing to foster inclusivity. If the answer is “nothing,” consider petitioning for change. Similarly, providing forums where people can speak openly about their experiences can help foster understanding and acceptance. 
  6. Confront stereotyping. Make it a point to confront any type of stereotyping you witness. The phrase “if you see something, say something” is applicable here. If you see or hear any form of stereotyping, unfair treatment, or discrimination, speak up! Calling attention to it is how we can initiate change.

The Bottom Line

There’s no doubt about it: stereotypes — whether positive or negative — can be harmful, with very real consequences. It’s easy to make snap judgments about someone based on preconceived notions, but doing so denies their individual uniqueness. We can all combat stereotypes by acknowledging our own biases, discussing how stereotypes affect people, and speaking up in defense of others. 

If you want to become more self-aware and learn how to cultivate greater empathy and compassion for others, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and enhance their well-being.

Have you ever been stereotyped? Maybe someone said you wouldn’t make a good leader because you’re a woman. Or maybe someone ridiculed you for shedding tears because men are supposed to be strong and non-emotional. Being stereotyped can leave you feeling frustrated, angry, and unvalued. Where do these stereotypes even come from, anyway, and what can we do to combat them? 

In this post, we’ll explore various types of stereotypes, why they’re so problematic, and what we can do to overcome them. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Stereotype?

Stereotypes are widely held, fixed, and over-generalized ideas about a particular type of person or group. They come in all forms and fashions, and are often based on popular cultural depictions of groups or on deeply-held beliefs. For instance, two common stereotypes are that women are weak and men are egotistical.

While stereotypes are rarely correct, they aren’t always negative. In fact, some stereotypes cast a positive light on a group or type of person. For instance, common positive stereotypes are that people of Asian descent are good at math, African Americans are fast runners, and gay men have good taste. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes are more common. 

Let’s take a closer look at the five most common types of negative stereotypes: 

  • Cultural stereotypes. These include harmful beliefs and misconceptions about individuals or entire cultures. For instance, people might say, “people from X culture are ignorant and rude,” “people from X culture are violent or uncivilized,” or “people from X culture are lazy.” 
  • Social stereotypes. Whether it’s the jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, or goths in school or the lone wolf at work, people sometimes make assumptions about different social groups based on their characteristics, economic class, age, skills, etc. For instance, people might say, “People from X class are snobby and arrogant,” “people from X group are shallow and selfish,” or “X group is unfriendly and prudish.” 
  • Racial stereotypes. These stereotypes are particularly harmful to others and can result in discrimination and even violence. They contribute to misconceptions about and inequality among groups because they reduce individual or collective experiences to a few characteristics that do not apply to everyone. For instance, people might say, “X race is superior to Y race,” “X race is unintelligent,” or “X race is violent and dangerous.” 
  • Gender stereotypes. People of different genders have always been compared and contrasted with each other, but certain stereotypes carry with them an expectation for how men and women should act, speak, dress, and conduct themselves. For instance, people might say, “Women should be polite, accommodating, and nurturing,” “men should be strong, aggressive, and brave,” or “women should stay at home with children.” 
  • Religious stereotypes. Religion is deeply important for billions of people around the world and impacts most people in some way. Religious stereotypes might include things like, “Religious people are judgmental,” “people who practice X religion are dangerous,” or “people of X religion are extremists and hypocrites.”

How Are Stereotypes Formed? 

Stereotypes can develop in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the leading theories:

  • Socialization. Stereotypes are often formed as a result of social learning, the information we’re taught or exposed to while growing up from parents, teachers, or peers. For instance, if in childhood we’re taught that boys are more athletic than girls, we grow up believing this is true. Or if we’re told that poor people are lazy, we’ll tend to view all poor people in this light as we get older. 
  • Illusory correlation. Stereotypes can also develop based on a cognitive mechanism known as illusory correlation — a false inference about the relationship between two events. For instance, if we were the victim of an attack by a young white man, we might make the illusory correlation that all young white men are dangerous.
  • Ingroup biases. This theory suggests that stereotypes form because we tend to have a more positive attitude toward people within the same group compared to others. In other words, we’re more likely to trust others with similar characteristics — such as those who share the same religious beliefs, ethnicity, or political ideologies — while remaining skeptical toward people who are different. 
  • Outgroup biases. Similarly, this theory suggests that we tend to exhibit prejudice and hostility toward members of different groups, such as those with different skin colors, languages, or physical attributes. This type of bias gives rise to the “us versus them” mentality. In other words, we cling to negative stereotypes towards groups whose members are different from ours. 
  • Media representation. Media outlets (books, movies, television shows, internet videos, and other forms of entertainment) can have a powerful influence on our views of certain groups. For instance, depictions of Latino people in the media can lead people to associate immigration with increased unemployment and crime. Hollywood has a history of casting white men as heroes, while erasing or subordinating other groups as villains, sidekicks, or sexual objects. 
Overcoming stereotypes through diversity and inclusion

The Problem With Stereotypes

Even though not all stereotypes are negative, they can all be harmful because they create preconceived ideas or expectations for people that they may not meet. Similarly, they reduce people to certain traits and ignore the individual differences that make us all unique. 

Negative stereotypes can be particularly harmful, threatening our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. In fact, studies have found that attempts to suppress stereotype-related thoughts lead to anxiety and the narrowing of attention, which can affect our level of functioning. 

For example, the stress associated with being labeled a certain way has been shown to disrupt working memory and executive functioning in our brain, increase arousal, and increase self-consciousness, ultimately causing individuals to suppress negative thoughts and emotions. 

One study found that when women were first reminded of the traditional stereotype that women are not as good at math as men and then given a math test, they consistently performed below their potential. Their brains showed heightened activation in the ventral stream of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a neural region associated with social and emotional processing. 

In another study, participants had to perform a task in the face of negative stereotyping. After participants were removed from the situation, they were more likely to be aggressive, lacked self-control, and had trouble making good decisions. They were even more likely to overindulge in carbohydrate-dominant and sugar-filled foods. 

Negative stereotypes can also have a significant impact on how we view ourselves, leading to lower self-confidence, limiting beliefs, and even mental health issues. For instance, one study found gender stereotypes to be one of the root causes of issues with body image and eating disorders among women and rising suicide rates among men. 

Furthermore, stereotypes can lead to assumptions about someone’s abilities or worth and influence our behavior toward them. This can lead to unfair treatment, prejudice, and discrimination. For instance, it’s not uncommon for women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and racial minorities to experience discrimination in the workforce or to be overlooked for promotions. In fact, in 2022, 61% of employees surveyed said discrimination was a problem in their workplace. Sadly, racial discrimination has increased since the beginning of COVID-19, including discrimination targeting Asian and Asian American individuals. 

What Is an Effective Way To Combat Stereotypes?

While we might not be able to avoid stereotypes completely, we can all play a role in combating them. Here are six tips for doing just that:

  1. Acknowledge your biases. The first and most important step to combating stereotypes is to acknowledge that they exist and recognize that they can have detrimental effects on an individual’s well-being. Spend some time thinking about how you might be stereotyping certain people or groups, and examine your own biases and prejudices. Remember: we all have them! Try asking yourself how you think you developed these beliefs. Were you influenced by your parents, teachers, or peers? Has the media played a role? 
  2. Focus on the individual. Every single person is unique. We may share some features with others, but our life and behavior are uniquely shaped by individual circumstances. When interacting with someone new, try focusing on their individuality and their unique characteristics. Question your assumptions, avoid making snap judgments, and try not to classify them as part of a certain “group.” Diversity is beautiful! Just think how boring it would be if we were all identical.
  3. Expose yourself to diverse perspectives. It’s easy to stay in our own little bubbles, but interacting with people who are different from us or who share different ideas and opinions can help combat assumptions we might have made. Plus, we’ll likely learn something new if we remain open and curious. Try listening to podcasts or reading books by people from different backgrounds, listening to music from different cultures, or volunteering for a charitable organization. Learning about other cultures and groups teaches us to appreciate their uniqueness and complexity. 
  4. Foster empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion can play a large role in helping us combat stereotypes by reducing our tendency to judge, blame, or dehumanize others. The truth is that no person is better than another, and we all struggle in our own unique ways. Recognizing this allows us to have sympathy for what other people may be going through, no matter who they are. At the end of the day, we’re all just human! We can foster empathy and compassion by actively listening to others, asking open-ended questions, and imagining what life is like in their shoes. 
  5. Promote inclusivity. We can all play a role in promoting inclusivity in our workplace, local community, church, organization, etc. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives can help foster environments where all individuals are accepted and respected. Ask what your place of work is doing to foster inclusivity. If the answer is “nothing,” consider petitioning for change. Similarly, providing forums where people can speak openly about their experiences can help foster understanding and acceptance. 
  6. Confront stereotyping. Make it a point to confront any type of stereotyping you witness. The phrase “if you see something, say something” is applicable here. If you see or hear any form of stereotyping, unfair treatment, or discrimination, speak up! Calling attention to it is how we can initiate change.

The Bottom Line

There’s no doubt about it: stereotypes — whether positive or negative — can be harmful, with very real consequences. It’s easy to make snap judgments about someone based on preconceived notions, but doing so denies their individual uniqueness. We can all combat stereotypes by acknowledging our own biases, discussing how stereotypes affect people, and speaking up in defense of others. 

If you want to become more self-aware and learn how to cultivate greater empathy and compassion for others, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and enhance their well-being.

Summary FAQs

1. What are stereotypes?

Stereotypes are widely held, fixed, and over-generalized ideas about a particular type of person or group.

2. What are common types of stereotypes? 

There are both positive and negative stereotypes. Some of the more common negative stereotypes include cultural, social, racial, gender, and religious. 

3. How are stereotypes formed?

There are different theories on how stereotypes are developed. Socialization, illusory correlation, ingroup biases, outgroup biases, and media representation can all play a role in the formation of stereotypes.

4. Why are stereotypes problematic? 

Research shows that stereotypes can take a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health. Furthermore, stereotypes can influence our behavior toward them, leading to unfair treatment, prejudice, and discrimination.

5. How can we combat stereotypes?

We can all play a role in combating stereotypes by acknowledging our biases, focusing on the uniqueness of individuals, exposing ourselves to diverse perspectives, fostering empathy and compassion, promoting inclusivity, and confronting stereotypes whenever witness them. 

Become More Self-Aware With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

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The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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