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.”