Stereotypes constitute a person’s set of expectations about a social group’s characteristics, including traits, behaviors, and roles. They are the categorical associations perceivers make to group members based on their membership. Although cognitive in form, stereotypes are interlocked with affect and behavior: Along with prejudice and discrimination, stereotypes make up the tripartite foundation for the breakdown of intergroup relations.
Stereotyping stems from categorization processes that involve the self. Social identity theory contends that people conceptualize the self at different levels of inclusiveness that range from the subordinate to the superordinate. At each level of abstraction, the corresponding identity (personal, social, or collective self) is salient, with reference to each varying by context. In perceiving the self through a social identity, the person views the self as part of an in-group that is distinctive and, under many circumstances, more subjectively positive than out-groups. Self-categorization theory continues this narrative: Depersonalization of the self via in-group and out-group differentiation triggers group phenomena that include stereotyping.
Two principles of self-categorization theory structure stereotypes: comparative fit and normative fit. In the former, also known as meta-contrast ratio fit, the smaller the perceived intragroup difference in comparison to inter-group differences, the more the group embodies a coherent unit. Thus, people are categorized into groups that minimize within-group differences and maximize between-group differences. Furthermore, normative fit requires that these differences, both within and between, align with the perceiver’s normative beliefs about the group—that the group fits expectations. An interaction between comparative fit and normative fit processes guides stereotype construction. Under the first principle, within-group variability decreases, increasing perceived homogeneity between group members; under the second, perceived group categories reflect a perceiver’s expectations about that group or the content of normative beliefs.
A two-dimensional framework inherited from person perception literature illustrates the content of stereotypes. Person and group perception use two recurring dimensions that are variations of warmth/morality and ability/competence. One example, the stereotype content model, argues that stereotypes immediately answer two key questions for the perceiver: Do out-group members intend good or ill toward me and my group? and Are they able to act on these intentions? The answers to these questions produce stereotypes in four quadrants: ambivalent (or cross-dimensional) stereotypes (e.g., elderly people are stereotypically nice but incompetent, rich people are stereotypically competent but not nice); stereotypically neither warm nor competent (e.g., poor people); and stereotypically both warm and competent (e.g., middle class).
Because stereotypes stem from the differentiation of “us” from “them,” stereotype targets usually fall outside the cultural default (in the United States): not young, not white, not male, not heterosexual, not middle class, and not Christian. Groups whose members are the least (visibly) representative of the default receive the most stereotypes. The high prevalence of age, racial or ethnic, and gender stereotypes results in part from the speed of categorizing people on these dimensions.
Stereotyped targets are not exclusive to the visibly different. Stereotypes also form when a person perceives an illusory correlation between a group and a particular characteristic; in actuality, group membership and the characteristic might covary by chance or because of historical development, or not even covary at all, but perceiving a fundamental connection strengthens the stereotypic quality of the characteristic for that group. Stereotypes may reflect the perceiver’s knowledge of power relations in society. Some national stereotypes exemplify such contextual influences on stereotype formation, with perceivers relying on features of a nation—political, economic, religious, geographic, and status vis-à-vis one’s own nation, among others—to characterize its residents. Because they are shaped by the social context, stereotypes reflect cultural beliefs. As such, they shift over time—when social conditions change, societies update their stereotypes of groups because the social relations of those groups transform. As an example, many ethnic groups in the early twenty-first-century United States receive more favorable stereotypes than they did in the 1930s, including originally mistrusted immigrants (e.g., Irish, Italian, Jewish) who now join the mainstream.
Whatever their origins, stereotyping serves cognitive, motivational, and social purposes. For example, in the cognitive miser view, stereotyping saves mental effort. Facing cognitively overwhelming tasks and limited attention and effort, people rely on stereotypes to increase available on-line resources. People’s social interaction priorities also influence stereotyping. Many models of stereotyping posit two modes of impression formation, with some models arguing for an either-or competition between the two, and others placing them on the ends of a continuum. In either case, one mode emphasizes the need to make quick decisions through categorical information, whereas the other underscores the need to be accurate through effortful use of individuating information. The perceiver who must prioritize between these interaction goals is dubbed the motivated tactician. Using stereotypes can smooth interactions if both people agree on the stereotype or if the interaction is brief and inconsequential for the holder of the stereotype.
Because they are convenient, stereotypes often actively motivate perceivers to maintain them. Creating exceptional subtypes is one way to maintain an overall stereotype despite a few salient people who do not conform neatly to the group. Subtyping allows the perceiver to cognitively isolate people who are stereotype-inconsistent by explaining that while they belong to the stereotyped group, they do not entirely represent the group.
At the societal level, system justification theory argues that people stereotype to maintain the status quo, even at the expense of one’s own group. Some researchers argue that minority groups’ own negative stereotypes demonstrate the system-justifying effects of stereotypes. Some researchers also suggest that complementary stereotypes (e.g., poor but happy, rich but miserable) increase support for the status quo because they satisfy people’s desire to perceive their world as fair and legitimate.
Although stereotypes may reflect a cultural belief, the individual with that knowledge does not necessarily endorse such a belief, as argued by the dissociation model of stereotypes. Nevertheless, regardless of one’s explicit prejudice level, a person may be primed to think of groups stereotypically. For example, the presentation of a group label facilitates the activation of subsequent stereotype-consistent associations for both low- and high-prejudiced people. Implicit stereotypes can persist, even when explicit stereotypes do not.
Incongruent results from explicit and implicit stereotype measures illustrate the dissociation between personal endorsement and cultural knowledge. They also demonstrate that perceivers are often unaware of their own cognitive associations, particularly if they are automatic. In addition, when egalitarian cultural norms discourage unfavorable prejudgments of others, and perceivers have a self-interest to refrain from these expressions, implicit measures can extract more information than can explicit measures. In short, implicit measures may detect what remains elusive from explicit measures. Regardless of whether a measure is explicit or implicit, stereotype measures reveal biases toward stereotype-consistent information.
Explicit measures are straightforward. As with other attitude measures, researchers can assess stereotypes through self-reports of impressions about target groups. For example, perceivers can express their impressions of immigrants in their own words, which the researchers then code into manageable categories. Stereotypes might include immigrant groups’ traits, behaviors, socioeconomic status, and life satisfaction, for example. Alternatively, perceivers can rate on a scale of how characteristically immigrants are hard-working, engage in criminal behaviors, experience poverty, feel welcome in the host nation, and so on.
Implicit measures reveal attention, attribution, and memory biases toward stereotype-consistent information. People prefer to confirm their stereotypes, at an immediate perceptual level, detecting stereotype-consistent information more easily. Although they then attend to stereotype-inconsistent information, if present, they tend to explain it away: The out-group’s success was a fluke, the successful out-group individual is not typical, and so on. In general, an out-group’s stereotype-consistent behavior elicits internal attributions to the group’s enduring dispositions; stereotype-inconsistent behavior elicits external attributions to chance or temporary circumstances. If a particular negative trait stereotype afflicts a target group, that group’s failures could be attributed to the supposed negative trait. If an out-group member does behave negatively and stereotypically (e.g., the criminal activity of a black person), situational factors will likely be disregarded in explaining that person’s behavior. People also better recall and recognize stereotype-consistent information than stereotype-inconsistent information if they are busy and operating in the complex environments typical of everyday interactions.
Researchers also devise priming methods to study automatic stereotypic associations. Some involve subliminal presentation of priming stimuli. Study participants then perform various tasks—including word searches, lexical decision tasks, fluency-manipulated tasks, and interpretations of ambiguous behaviors—in which they might produce responses that indicate stereotypic associations to the primes. Reaction speed, performance quality, and stereotypicality of responses indicate level of stereotype activation. Compared to this preconscious (subliminal) presentation of stimuli, other priming manipulations explicitly present stimuli; thus the perceiver postconsciously produces the activated associations. The implicit association test consciously primes two categories and then measures differential reaction times to concepts that are stereotype-consistent to one of the primes but not the other. People often react more quickly to negative words following out-group primes and to positive words following in-group primes. Also using postconscious priming, neuroimaging studies show increased amygdala (vigilance) activation to images of out-groups. Automatic associations escape a person’s conscious awareness, but implicit measures subtly detect what lurks beneath the surface.
Stereotypes might result from historical accidents, unduly generalize across people, and mostly derogate, yet they persist. Nevertheless, the costs of stereotyping have more extensive effects, especially for the target. First, the perceiver glosses over individuating information about a target (preference for stereotype-consistent information foregoes potential knowledge gain). On their side, targets are evaluated at the category level and not according to individual characteristics. They might even be classified with others in a group with which they do not identify.
Inaccuracies of three types plague stereotypes. Stereotypic inaccuracy refers to the overestimation of the target group’s stereotypicality or the underweighing of its stereotype-inconsistent qualities. Valence inaccuracy entails exaggeration of the negativity or positivity of the group’s stereotypes. Dispersion inaccuracy results from over- or undergeneralizing the variability between group members. Nonetheless, some other researchers argue for studying the accuracies contained within stereotypes because in this view they reflect reality.
The effects of stereotyping increase concomitantly with prejudice. Stereotypes along with prejudice strongly predict discrimination, so prejudiced perceivers are much more likely to act on their prejudice to negatively stereotyped groups.
Stereotypes reach beyond themselves. Stereotype threat describes targets’ awareness of their group’s negative stereotypes in a particular and consequential performance domain; they can ironically perform worse than those who do not care about that domain. Furthermore, stereotype threat leads to the targets fulfilling the stereotype that haunted them in the first place. Some examples are black students in an academic setting and women in mathematical tasks, for whom performance was labeled as diagnostic of their ability. Stereotype-threat effects differ from self-fulfilling prophecies because they affect people without encountering a prejudiced person.
Self-fulfilling prophecies, also called behavioral confirmation, perpetuate stereotypes through the perceiver’s expectancies of confirmation and the target’s behavioral confirmations of the expectancy. For the perceiver, one utility of stereotypes is in making the cognitive and social load more manageable. Stereotypes may also be useful for targets who want to fulfill their interaction partner’s expectancies so that they can avoid conflict or focus on an aspect of the interaction they deem more important. The process, however, perpetuates stereotypes in society.
SEE ALSO Attitudes; Attribution; Discrimination, Racial; Merton, Robert K.; Perception, Person; Prejudice; Self-Fulfilling Prophecies; Steele, Claude; Stereotype Threat
Devine, Patricia G. 1989. Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their Automatic and Controlled Components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56 (1): 5–18.
Fiske, Susan T., Amy J. C. Cuddy, Peter Glick, and Jun Xu. 2002. A Model of (Often Mixed) Stereotype Content: Competence and Warmth Respectively Follow from Perceived Status and Competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82 (6): 878–902.
Greenwald, Anthony G., and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 1995. Implicit Social Cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes. Psychological Review 102 (1): 4–27.
Jost, John T., and Mahzarin R. Banaji. 1994. The Role of Stereotyping in System Justification and the Production of False Consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology 33 (1): 1–27.
Macrae, C. Neil, Charles Stangor, and Miles Hewstone, eds. 1996. Stereotypes and Stereotyping. New York: Guilford Press.
Tajfel, Henri, and John C. Turner. 2004. The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior. In Political Psychology: Key Readings, eds. John T. Jost and Jim Sidanius, 276–293. New York: Psychology Press.
Turner, John C., and Penelope J. Oakes. 1989. Self-Categorization Theory and Social Influence. In The Psychology of Group Influence, ed. Paul B. Paulus, 233–275. 2nd ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Tiane L. Lee
Susan T. Fiske
The term “stereotype” originated in the technology of printing, where it has a clearly defined meaning. A body of type is set up; then a mold is made from this type, and a solid metal plate is cast in the mold. This metal plate is the stereotype. Its printing surface is precisely equivalent to that of the original type. The major purpose of stereotyping is to produce a printing surface that can be used for thousands and thousands of impressions without needing to be replaced. Thus, the adjective “stereotyped” has come to mean “mechanically repeated” or—in a broader usage—“hackneyed” or “trite.”
During the past forty years the noun “stereotype” has been widely used as a social science concept without ever being precisely defined. Its usage was introduced by the American journalist Walter Lippmann in a book called Public Opinion (1922). The major thesis of this book is that in a modern democracy political leaders and ordinary citizens are required to make decisions about a variety of complicated matters that they do not understand. People believe that their conceptions of German soldiers, Belgian priests, or American Ku Klux Klansmen, for example, are accurate representations of the real members of these classes. Not so! said Lippmann. The conception in most cases is actually a stereotype acquired by the individual from some source other than his direct experience. The situation is not usually improved even by direct experience with the social object corresponding to the stereotype because (according to Lippmann) people see mainly what they expect to see rather than what is really there.
Lippmann's book was much admired by social scientists, and in many of their writings (especially textbooks) the term “stereotype” has continued to have essentially the meaning Lippmann gave it. When a concept is referred to as a stereotype, the implication is that (1) it is simple rather than complex or differentiated; (2) it is erroneous rather than accurate; (3) it has been acquired secondhand rather than through direct experience with the reality it is supposed to represent; and (4) it is resistant to modification by new experience. [See the biography of LIPPMANN.]
It is unfortunate for the development of social science that attention has been focused on the noun “stereotype” rather than the adjective “stereotyped.” When one considers the adjective it becomes obvious that in the realm of concepts (though not in printing technology) stereotypy is a matter of degree. It is also fairly clear that the extent to which an individual's conception of, say, “the German soldier” is stereotyped is not a unidimensional variable. The four characteristics of a stereotype described above can vary independently; as a matter of fact, there is no solid evidence that they are even positively correlated. In these circumstances there would be little scientific value in setting up arbitrary criteria for the extent to which a concept had to have these characteristics in order to be termed a stereotype. It would be more profitable instead to treat the dimensions of stereotypy as quantitative variables and to investigate their variation from individual to individual, from concept to concept, and from situation to situation.
Empirical research . There has actually been very little of such systematic investigation. The only dimension that has been seriously studied is the one of resistance to modification by new experience [for a discussion of this research, see Attitudes, article on Attitude change; Persuasion]. On the other hand, there have been very few attempts to set up criteria for classifying an individual's concepts in a particular area into “stereotypes” and “nonstereotypes.” In empirical research the term “stereotype” has usually been employed simply as a pejorative designation for “group concept.”
This “group concept” usage became established in a classic study by Katz and Braly (1933). A group of 100 white American college students were asked to select from a list of 84 traits those they considered characteristic of each one of ten ethnic groups; then they were asked to choose the five “most typical” traits for each group. An index of definiteness of stereotype was constructed by counting the least number of traits required to include 50 per cent of the 500 choices by all subjects. This index ranged from a minimum of 4.6 for Negroes to a maximum of 15.9 for Turks. The six most frequent characterizations of each group were as follows (figures in parentheses indicate the number of students choosing a trait as one of the five “most typical”)—Negroes: superstitious (84), lazy (75), happy-go-lucky (38), ignorant (38), musical (26), and ostentatious (26); Turks: cruel (47), very religious (26), treacherous (21), sensual (20), ignorant (15), and physically dirty (15). Both Negroes and Turks were viewed very unfavorably by these students, but there was considerably more agreement on the characteristics attributed to Negroes.
The Katz and Braly procedure has been repeated many times, for many different ethnic groups, and in many different countries. In one of the more recent studies, a list of 99 adjectives was submitted to a group of 100 Arab students in Beirut, Lebanon (Prothro & Melikian 1954). These adjectives, in Arabic, had been selected from a longer list developed by other students at the same university to characterize members of various ethnic groups. The Arab students characterized Negroes in a manner similar to American students twenty years earlier, but their ratings of Turks were entirely different. The six traits most frequently chosen as “most typical” of Turks were strong (36), militaristic (33), nationalistic (33), courageous (31), progressive (18), and arrogant (17).
Since 1933 the paper-and-pencil questionnaire has been the typical method for investigating stereotypes. Most studies have dealt with beliefs about ethnic groups, but a substantial number have investigated beliefs about occupational groups, social class groups, the two sexes, etc. What conclusions can be drawn from all this research?
One conclusion is that most individuals feel able to make at least a guess about the characteristics of almost any defined social group on the basis of information that a social scientist would consider quite inadequate. Opinions are picked up from other individuals, from the mass media, and—to some extent—from direct personal contact. There are some highly conspicuous national groups— Americans, Russians, French, British, Chinese— about whom the majority of the world's citizens seem now to hold definite opinions.
To what extent are these opinions correct? A great many social scientists accept the “kernel of truth” hypothesis (Klineberg 1950), which asserts that if we could determine objectively and accurately the characteristics of a defined social group and that if we ascertained the beliefs of some other social group about the first, we would find a more than random correspondence between the two sets of characteristics. There will always be some individuals whose beliefs about members of the defined social group are almost completely accurate and others whose beliefs are more wrong than right. However, according to the “kernel of truth” hypothesis, the over-all amount of truth in stereotypes is greater than the amount of error.
This hypothesis is clearly impossible to test in its general form. What can be tested are hypotheses about the accuracy with which specific sets of characteristics are attributed to the members of group X by the members of group Y—provided we can determine the true distribution of these characteristics in group X. For obvious reasons, little research of this sort has been done, and the findings have been highly divergent. In at least one study of attitudes toward an ethnic group (Armenians in California) there was a negative relationship between the actual characteristics of the group and the stereotype of it held by nonmembers (LaPiere 1936).
There are many hypotheses about the circumstances under which stereotypes (in the sense of group concepts) are likely to be accurate or inaccurate. One of the most plausible is that of Roger Brown (1965), who argues that beliefs about members of a particular social group are most likely to be accurate if the group consists of people playing a defined social role—for example, the members of a particular occupation, caste, or sex. In this case, “what is prescribed for the category is ordinarily performed by the category and expected from the category” (ibid., p. 172). Social life would be almost impossible if this were not so.
A very widely held belief is that the stereotypes held by educated people are in general more accurate than those of the uneducated and that the concepts of social scientists are most accurate of all. This is certainly Lippmann's view, and it seems very reasonable; however, it has not been demonstrated.
When members of two different ethnic groups are asked to rate both themselves and each other in the Katz and Braly manner, two things usually occur. One is that the array of characteristics selected by group X as most typical of itself is similar to the array of characteristics selected by group Y as most typical of group X. The other is that socially desirable characteristics are more likely to be emphasized in a group's description of itself, while undesirable characteristics are more likely to be emphasized in the description of a group by members of another group—especially if there has been a recent history of conflict between the two groups. A representative study is that of Reigrotski and Anderson (1959), in which large numbers of Belgians, Dutch, French, and Germans were asked to characterize both themselves and the other three nationality groups. From a list of 12 adjectives the ones most frequently selected by the Germans to describe themselves were (in order): hardworking, brave, intelligent, practical, progressive, and peace-loving. On the other hand, the French thought the Germans were most characteristically: domineering, hardworking, cruel, progressive, brave, and intelligent.
When there is agreement between a group's image of itself and the image that members of a second group have of the first, this is usually taken as evidence for a substantial “kernel of truth” in both sets of stereotypes (e.g., Vinacke 1949). The tendency of members of a group to see themselves more favorably than members of other groups see them is generally considered to be a reflection of ethnocentrism; this tendency has been widely demonstrated. In the case of low-status groups, however, such as the American Negroes, lower-caste Hindus, and people in depressed areas, even their own stereotypes of themselves may be unfavorable (Bayton 1941; Bayton & Byoune 1947; Rath & Sircar I960; Hughes et al. 1960, pp. 244-311).
Although in the great majority of studies the term “stereotype” has been used to mean “group concept,” with no attempt to determine either the adequacy of the concept in representing its object or the quality of thinking of the person using the concept, there has been some research in which the investigator tried to study stereotypes in Lippmann's sense of the term. Most of these studies have dealt with ethnic stereotypes, and the major conclusion has been that the more unfavorable an individual's attitude is toward members of a particular group, the more likely are his concepts of such group members to be stereotypes in Lippmann's sense (Bettelheim & Janowitz 1950; Adorno et al. 1950; Secord 1959).
The confusion in the meaning assigned to the term “stereotype” by different authors, especially the contrast in usage by the majority of empirical workers and the majority of textbook writers, has led to a good deal of discussion of the basic concept or concepts involved in the term. Two of the best articles on this subject are those of Fishman (1956) and Vinacke (1957). In the opinion of the present writer, the broad and undiscriminating usage of the noun “stereotype” is now too well established to be dislodged.
The extreme diversity of research on stereotypes has inhibited authors from attempting to review the entire field. (A review and bibliography of research on ethnic stereotypes can be found in Klineberg 1950 and in Harding et al. 1954.)
Bayton, James A. 1941 The Racial Stereotypes of Negro College Students. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 36:97-102.
Bayton, James A.; and Byoune, Ethel 1947 Racio-National Stereotypes Held by Negroes. Journal of Negro Education 16:49-56.
Bettelheim, Bruno; and Janowitz, Morris (1950) 1964 Social Change and Prejudice, Including Dynamics of Prejudice. New York: Free Press. → A reprinting of the authors' Dynamics of Prejudice, with a reassessment of its findings.
Brown, Roger W. 1965 Social Psychology. New York: Free Press.
Fishman, Joshua A. 1956 An Examination of the Process and Function of Social Stereotyping. Journal of Social Psychology 43:27-64.
Harding, John S. et al. 1954 Prejudice and Ethnic Relations. Volume 2, pages 1021-1061 in Gardner Lindzey (editor), Handbook of Social Psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Hughes, Charles C. et al. 1960 People of Cove and Woodlot: Communities From the Viewpoint of Social Psychiatry. The Stirling County Study of Psychiatric Disorder and Socio-cultural Environment, Vol. 2. New York: Basic Books.
Katz, Daniel; and Braly, Kenneth 1933 Racial Stereotypes of One Hundred College Students. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 28:280-290.
Klineberg, Otto 1950 Tensions Affecting International Understanding: A Survey of Research. Social Science Research Council, Bulletin No. 62. New York: The Council.
Lapiere, Richard T. 1936 Type-rationalizations of Group Antipathy. Social Forces 15:232-237.
Lippmann, Walter (1922) 1944 Public Opinion. New York: Macmillan. → A paperback edition was published in 1965 by the Free Press.
Prothro, EdwinT.; and Melikian, Levon H. 1954 Studies in Stereotypes: III. Arab Students in the Near East. Journal of Social Psychology 40:237-243.
Rath, R.; and Sircar, N. C. 1960 The Mental Pictures of Six Hindu Caste Groups About Each Other as Reflected in Verbal Stereotypes. Journal of Social Psychology 51:277-293.
Reigrotski, Erich; and Anderson, Nels 1959 National Stereotypes and Foreign Contacts. Public Opinion Quarterly 23:515-528.
Secord, Paul F. 1959 Stereotyping and Favorableness in the Perception of Negro Faces. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59:309-314.
Vinacke, W. Edgar 1949 Stereotyping Among National-Racial Groups in Hawaii: A Study in Ethnocentrism. Journal of Social Psychology 30:265-291.
Vinacke, W. Edgar 1957 Stereotypes as Social Concepts. Journal of Social Psychology 46:229-243.
An unvarying view about the physical appearance, personality, or behavior of a particular group of people.
Some people believe and perpetuate stereotypes about particular ethnic groups: Italians are emotionally sensitive, loud, and talk with their hands; Irish people drink too much; Germans are serious and intelligent. While such characteristics may apply to few members of that ethnic group, some people characterize all people in a certain group to share these traits . Psychologists have also noted the role stereotypes play in human memory . When meeting a new person, for example, people sometimes combine their firsthand perceptions of that person—appearance, personality , intelligence—with stereotypes they have formed about similar people. Later, when trying to describe or recall that person, the actual characteristics become distorted by the stereotypical features that often have no relation to that person.
Television has been criticized for perpetuating stereotypes, particularly regarding racial groups and women. Studies have shown that early television programs, in particular, were guilty of portraying stereo-typed characters. For instance, minorities were more likely than whites to be criminals, and women were often shown in the roles of wife, mother, or sex object. Children proved to be especially vulnerable to the influence of these stereotypes. The civil rights movement of the 1960s and the women's movement of the 1970s prompted the development of "prosocial" programs such as Sesame Street that sought to counter racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes.
Liebert, Robert M.; Joyce N. Sprafkin; and Emily S. Davidson. The Early Window: Effects of Television on Children and Youth. New York: Pergamon Press, 1982.
ster·e·o·type / ˈsterēəˌtīp; ˈsti(ə)r-/ • n. 1. a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing: the stereotype of the woman as the carer sexual and racial stereotypes. ∎ a person or thing that conforms to such an image: don't treat anyone as a stereotype.2. a relief printing plate cast in a mold made from composed type or an original plate.• v. [tr.] view or represent as a stereotype: the city is too easily stereotyped as an industrial wasteland | [as adj.] (stereotyped) the film is weakened by its stereotyped characters. DERIVATIVES: ster·e·o·typ·ic / ˌsterēəˈtipik/ adj.ster·e·o·typ·i·cal adj.ster·e·o·typ·i·cal·ly adv.