When you hear the word *stereotypes* for most people, a negative connotation ensue. It needn’t be so. They are useful heuristics that guide us through our decision making processus, only if used aptly.
Here are some simple rules that resonate with me:
ARE YOU STRESSED? THEN STICK WITH YOUR STEREOTYPE.
In a “high-stress” situation, you are better off sticking to your stereotypes:
Where the prize of being a ‘nice guy’ could be unbearable. When there is [even] a slight chance that a conviction you hold about a negative stereotype is wrong, but if the consequences you will face (if it happens to be right) is very high and not palatable, then you had probably stick to your stereotype. AND/OR when you have to take a Bugatti-Styled decision. When time is an enemy, you want to play it safe. A quintessential, still empirical example came to mind, but to avoid possible irked insinuations, I will trust your intellect for a befitting one.
On the other hand when you are in a “less-stressed” situation, think carefully (or at least think twice) about your stereotypes.
Here is a made-up-but-illustrative example:
WILL YOU MARRY A COSMOLOGIST?
Stereotype: Cosmologists make bad spouse. (Group 1)
Conclusion: Therefore I shouldn’t marry a Cosmologist.
For us to come to this outlandish conclusion. We need to [at least, think] about 3 more groups in the population.
Group 2. Cosmologists that make good spouse.
In a world where indeed cosmologists are stereotyped to make bad spouse, you will not hear [as often] about cosmologists that are good partners. This is a classic case of silent evidence. We refuse to take them into account readily because it doesn’t conform to our narrative and thus, doesn’t spike the outrage that primes us to propagate the news.
To clarify, assume you are an alien, on your first trip to earth, you got locked up in the room to listen to any random news –Any! By the time you are let loose, you will most likely conclude that all humans are violent. After all, you wouldn’t hear an iota of news about the peace loving folks. Those are the silent evidences. In other words, the peace makers that doesn’t make your 10 o’clock news are the cosmologists that make good spouse.
THE REMAINING [INCONSPICUOUS] TWO GROUPS
Group 3. Non-cosmologists that are good spouse.
Group 4. Non-cosmologists that are bad spouse.
For you to make good decision about a cosmologist marriage expertise, then you need a commensurate information about those who are not cosmologist i.e non-cosmologist. A very good illustration is stated in Ziva Kunda’s Social Cognition: “ … some people argue that there is truth in astrology. They often support this claim by providing several examples of events that were predicted by their horoscope and then came true. To properly access […], it is also necessary to know about events that were predicted by the horoscope and did not come true, […] events that were not predicted by the horoscope but happened anyway and counterintuitive as it may seem, about events that were not predicted by the horoscope and never happened”
In the end we come up with a 2X2 covariation table.
So at this point you may ask “what do I do with all these?”
Not much. Except to know that for you to confirm an association between cosmologists and bad performances in marriage you need to be sure that the ratio of cosmologists that make bad spouse (group 1) to cosmologists who do not (group 2) is greater than the same ratio among non-cosmologist (Group3:Group4)
Okay! I know this is impossible to calculate, at least if you live in a real world. But the next time you get your self head-stucked with a stereotype and wouldn’t give in, thinking through this logica will probably make you reconsider your stance.