ASIDE: Positive Stereotypes

Some people say all stereotypes are unfair and destructive. Both restrict accurate perceptions of behaviors and motivations, obscure reality, justify irrational expectations, and limit an individual's ability to be themselves. Consider the stereotype that men are assertive, even though many men are in fact, shy, retiring and soft-spoken. If a man doesn't conform to the generally positive assertive stereotype, he may be considered a wimp or a weakling. People need not perpetuate culturally biased generalizations.

On the other hand, consider the results of a Yale study on ageing that used positive stereotypes.

...The study also found that the elderly participants who were exposed to positive aging self-stereotypes demonstrated significantly higher self-confidence and higher mathematical performance than those exposed to the negative aging self-stereotypes.*

Clearly this is useful to bolster self-esteem. But the negative impact of these stereotypes is close behind. The Asian genius stereotype pressures Asians to mentally excel. And the stereotyped Asian genius image is a bucktoothed wimp with thick glasses.

*Becca Levy, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine, is lead author of the study: