Stereotyping is the act of making assumptions or generalizations about what a particular type of person is like based on perceived characteristics, such as race, gender, or age. These assumptions may be oversimplified or inaccurate, leading to unfair or biased treatment of individuals.

What is a stereotype? 

According to Dictionary by Merriam-Webster, a stereotype is defined as a standardized mental picture of a group that represents an oversimplified opinion, uncritical judgment or prejudiced attitude. It is a common phenomenon that many of us encounter in our daily lives, used to generalize a group of people. 

The generalization is based on limited information or characteristics perceived to be shared by all group members.

Stereotype: Definition and explanation

The definition of a stereotype is broad, but at its core, it refers to a standardized and simplified conception of a group or individual. The conception is based on preconceived notions or assumptions, rather than on actual knowledge or experience.

While some stereotypes may have some basis, they are often exaggerated, distorted, or entirely inaccurate.

Such generalizations can lead to discrimination, prejudice, and unfair treatment. For example, suppose a person has had a negative experience with a member of a particular group. In that case, they may generalize that one experience to the entire group and develop a negative stereotype due to confirmation bias.

Popular culture and media in general often perpetuate these stereotypes, which can influence how people view certain groups.

Examples of different stereotypes 

Stereotypes all share the same underlying traits but can take different forms. The different stereotypes can be applied to various categories, such as gender or sexuality.

You can learn more about the most common different stereotypes below.


Gender stereotypes are based on a person’s perceived gender or sex. Such stereotypes are deeply ingrained in our society and culture, affecting how people perceive themselves and others.

For example, a common gender stereotype is that women are emotional, which can lead to discrimination in the workplace and other areas of life, where women may be seen as less capable than men.

Such stereotypes can perpetuate gender inequality and gender-based violence and harassment.

Here are more specific examples:


Sexual orientation stereotypes are based on a person’s perceived sexual orientation (e.g., gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc.). Such stereotypes can lead to discrimination, marginalization, and violence against LGBTQ+.

For example, a common sexual orientation stereotype is that all gay men are flamboyant, while lesbians are stereotyped as being masculine, aggressive, or unattractive. 

Such stereotypes perpetuate harmful stereotypes that contribute to homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.

Here are more specific examples:


Religious stereotypes are based on a person’s perceived religion or faith. 

For example, a common religious stereotype is that all Muslims are terrorists, while Jews are stereotyped as being greedy and controlling. Such stereotypes contribute to islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and general discrimination.

Here are more specific examples:


Age stereotypes are based on a person’s perceived age. Such stereotypes can contribute to discrimination in the form of ageism, which can limit opportunities and marginalize people based on their age.

For example, a common stereotype is that older people are technologically inept, while younger people are entitled and lacking in work ethic.

Here are more specific examples:


Racial stereotypes are based on a person’s perceived race (e.g., Asian, black, white etc.) or ethnicity (e.g., Hispanic, Native American, etc.). 

For example, a common racial stereotype is that Black people are criminal, or uneducated, while Asian individuals are stereotyped as being good at math. These stereotypes can lead to systemic racism and discrimination.. 

Here are more specific examples:


Disability stereotypes are based on a person’s perceived disability.

For example, a common disability stereotype is that people with disabilities are helpless or dependent, unable to care for themselves or contribute to society. Such stereotypes can lead to discrimination in the form of ableism and marginalization of individuals with disabilities in areas such as employment.

Here are more specific examples:

Various aspects of stereotyping 

Stereotyping can reinforce several types of bias, such as in-group bias and halo bias. 

You can learn more about the two types of bias and their relation to stereotyping below. 

In-group bias

In-group bias refers to the tendency to favor others perceived as part of one’s own group while discriminating against outsiders of that group.

The bias can reinforce stereotypes and lead to unfair treatment of individuals of one’s own group.

For example, suppose a person identifies strongly with a particular racial or ethnic group. In that case, they may exhibit in-group bias by favoring individuals from their own group and discriminating against individuals from other racial or ethnic groups.

Halo effect

Another aspect of stereotyping is the halo effect, which is the tendency to form an overall positive impression of a person based on one positive trait or characteristic. This positive impression may then influence how a person perceives other traits or characteristics of that individual. 

The halo effect can also work in reverse, where negative qualities or traits are attributed to individuals based on a single negative characteristic or experience. This can lead to biased judgment and unfair treatment of those who do not possess the same positive trait or characteristics. 

Consequently, halo bias often perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

For example, if a woman is assertive in the workplace, she may be labeled as “bossy” or “difficult” while a man exhibiting the same behavior may be praised as a “strong leader”. This type of bias can lead to gender inequality and limit opportunities for women to advance their careers. 


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