Don’t let stereotypes Warp Your Judgments

                          by Robert L. Heilbroner

Is a girl called Gloria apt to be better-looking than one called Bertha? Are criminals more likely to be dark than blond? Can you tell a good deal about someone’s personality from hearing his voice briefly over the phone? Can a person’s nationality be pretty accurately guessed from his photograph? Does the fact that someone wears glasses imply that he is intelligent?

The answer to all these questions is obviously, “No.”

Yet from all the evidence at hand, most of us believe these things. Ask any college boy if he’d rather take his chances with a Gloria or a Bertha, or ask a college girl if she’d rather blind-date a Richard or a Cuthbert. In fact, you don’t have to ask: college students in questionnaires have revealed that names conjure up the same images in their minds as they do in yours—and for as little reason.

Look into the favorite suspects of persons who report “suspicious characters” and you will find a large percentage of them to be “swarthy” or “dark and foreign-looking”—despite the testimony of criminologists that criminals do not tend to be dark, foreign or “wild-eyed.” Delve into the main asset of a telephone stock swindler and you will find it to be a marvelously confidence-inspiring telephone “personality.”

  1. Names conjure up the same images in their minds as they do in yours - for no special reason. - The author is using an as-as construct: as they do in yours—and for as little reason

  2. Reporting a suspicious character is often based on personal prejudice - so to the American white suburban housewife, a black youth in her street is suspicious; to the Dutch ditto, someone from Morocco or Turkey - regardless that the actual thief might be white.

Look into - examine
The favourite suspect - the type of stereotype each of us has in our mind when someone comes up and asks us "Who do you think did this crime"

Examine the kind of people a person, reporting suspicious characters, is afraid of and you will find dark and foreign looking people

Lastly a person selling stocks over the phone uses his personality and social engineering and does not necessarily look like this:

(source: telegraph.co.uk)

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  • Thx but what does the word collection "the favorite suspects of person" exactly mean here? I mean the meaning of every single word of this word collection. – Englisholic May 11 '15 at 14:37
  • Thx a lot again but a question rises here: Why has the author used "for as little reason" while he could've used, for example, "for a little reason"? I mean on what basis has he used that expression and not a different, simpler one? – Englisholic May 11 '15 at 15:15
  • Also, what does the last sentence mean and what has it got to do with "stereotypes"? – Englisholic May 11 '15 at 15:18

for as little reason

The assumptions are equally flawed.

Assumption A is made by group A, with little connection to fact.

Assumption A is ALSO made by group B, but with just as little connection to fact.

Look into the favorite suspects of person who report “suspicious characters”

"Suspicious characters" = Individuals that a person thinks have bad intentions.

"Look into the favorite suspects" = Examine common descriptions

"of person who report “suspicious characters”" = Given by people about individuals they think have bad intentions.

In this case the writer is being unnecessarily indirect about what he is saying, so it reads a bit awkwardly. The concept he's trying to convey is that it is common for people who feel intimidated or threatened to ASSUME that dangerous people have certain physical qualities.

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