False perceptions

False perceptions

For many centuries, great thinkers have speculated about why men and women are so different, not only by way of their thinking but also in the way they carry out their everyday tasks and activities. Women are often better housekeepers, while men are freedom lovers and prefer the outside world. Some biologists have even suggested that the brains of men and women are wired differently, with certain parts being of the brain being more active in males. But in reality, the human brain’s circuitry is wired by nothing but stereotypes: the attention directors, the guides for encoding and retrieval of information, the cognitive energy savers and the foundation of all prejudices. Stereotypes are just false perceptions, grounded on nothing but personal opinions and inter group discrimination.

So many years have passed since the Earth came into being. Since the beginning of human race stereotypes have existed, unbeaten, forever strong, unchanging. Stereotypes made it easier for the human brain to process information, since they reduced the amount of deductions that had to be done when encountering a new person or situation. Since time’s beginning, the human brain has not undergone much evolution, and so stereotypes have also been protected from wear and tear. This is considerable proof that stereotypes are just the creation of the human mind, and have no basis in truth. It is all about personal opinions. In present day, women have time and again proven themselves to be equal to, if not better than men. However, even if women stand on their heads, the stereotype that Men are strong and do all the work, are the ‘backbone’, are messy and unclean while women are not very smart, cannot do as good of a job as men and are not too good at sports will never change, because stereotypes are rooted so deeply within our system. If this stereotype was based on the true performance of both men and women, it would have been wiped out of existence decades ago. Because every human eye can now see that a woman of today not only has the potential to look after the house and kids, but also handle a job or business extremely successfully. And as for sports, women like Maria Sharapova have always had their names etched in gold, beside those of male players like Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.  So there is nothing behind such stereotypes but discrimination against the opposite sex. Many males have failed to let go of the concept of superiority attached to them. Once this mental discrimination goes, the stereotype will immediately disappear. If stereotypes were based upon truth, they would have changed according to changes in situation. Women centuries ago were actually not as active professional workers as men. Today this scenario has taken a one eighty degrees turn, but the stereotype has not, which just goes to show that this stereotype is not based upon any truth, but just upon the thinking of an individual.

Stereotypes are extremely important for cognition and functioning of the brain. They serve the essential cognitive function of organizing incoming information, directing attention towards some events and away from others and thus they alter the retrieval of required information.  Augoustinos and Walker, two psychologists, presented the argument that stereotypes are a form of ‘schema’; they direct our mental sources, guide the encoding and retrieval of information and save cognitive energy. So it appears that the human brain is indeed wired by stereotypes, as it would probably be much more difficult and time consuming to process information, had stereotypes not existed.

When we talk about the origin of a stereotype being a truth about something, the first question that comes to mind is, ‘What is a truth?’ It is evident that what may be completely true and accurate for one may be the greatest lie of the century for another. A woman obviously would not think that she is in any way less than a man,be it about any profession or sport. Thus the stereotype that women are not very active workers or not worthy of sharing the workplace with men is a stereotype that has apparently resulted from the thinking, mentality and point of view of a male. So a view which is shared only by a certain group of individuals and not by all, how can it be based on truth? Isn’t what is called a truth supposed to be universal, accepted and respected by all? According to some existing stereotypes, all white Americans are obese, lazy and dim witted, all Mexicans come into America illegally, all Arabs and Muslims are terrorists, all people who live in England have bad teeth, French are the best lovers, all blacks outside the US are poor, all Asians are good at math, like to eat rice and drive slow and all Jews are greedy. But do these people, against whom these stereotypes are made, think this way too? It might be that some blacks are poor, but does it also mean that all blacks outside United States are poor, or that absolutely every black living within the US is filthy rich? Isn’t this a false generalization and a terrible distortion of the truth? It might be that somebody came across a Mexican who entered America illegally, but does that mean that every single Mexican in America is an illegal migrant? What is the fault of those Mexican migrants who underwent the entire legal procedure, and after a lot of hard work gained entry to America? Is it fair that the stereotype applies to them as well, just because they Mexican and migrants? And about all Muslims being terrorists, just because it might have happened once in history, all Muslims become suicide bombers? What is the fault of an innocent child born to Muslim parents? But his fate has already been decided for him that he, thanks to this stereotype, will always be looked down upon, probably be denied admission in a good foreign university, and if any unfortunate incident happens, be the first to be pointed a finger upon, and without any proof, be sent to rot in a jail for the rest of his life. Aren’t these extreme generalizations, made by the brain to make it easier to sort information? Aren’t they just personal opinions to pin down somebody or something as being inferior? Is this what truth means? Negative stereotypes put aside, even positive stereotypes, which are widely embraced and can even be flattering, are often hurtful.  

Whatever the origin of a stereotype, the only good that it has ever done is make things a bit easier for the human brain. A stereotype might make some people feel good about themselves, but it has also hurt a lot of feelings, ended many lives, and spoilt thousands of others. Martin Luther King died because of a stereotype; many more lives are yet to end. Even if there is some truth behind a stereotype, what is the use of something so negative, so heart breaking? What is the need for stereotypes, when they are just false perceptions, grounded on nothing but personal opinions and inter group discrimination? Why can’t the human brain adjust to the fact that every individual is different, every soul has its strengths, and that stereotypes are worthless?