Saturday, April 25, 2009

Schemas Stereotypes & the Evolved Ethical Self

April 26th, 2009 0:42 am
"Snap judgments" that help us assess social situations(example 'frumpy' Susan Boyle singing with a wonderful voice) are not "natural" as your subhead states, they're evolutionary.

Our mind-brains have EVOLVED over millennia, to acquire and construct SCHEMAS -- a useful, time-conserving, energy-conserving mental shorthand to group or categorize (stereotype)information about the world we live in -- the social world; all of nature; as well as all the objects and entities of our material culture.

We build stereotypes not only about people, but about about things, and even about what cannot be proven to exist, example God. Therefore, religion.

This capacity to categorize conveniently into schemas is essential to our survival as a species. We rely on our schemas, even when presented with conflicting information (plain women can have unique singing talent).

Do I have a useful, convenient, efficient stereotype about The New York Times? Yes I do!

Of all the experts you quoted in your article, the least useful, most limiting, for understanding stereotypes is the one advanced by Berreby in his Us and Them.

Our schemas (stereotypes), whether about singing sensations like Boyle or 11 year old Shaheen Jaffargholi or about garbage or Congress (!) help us to re-assess previously held ideas (which help us generate new schemas) without necessarily developing an insider-outsider binary. I don't have to be for or against Susan Boyle, see her as an outsider or insider, to maintain a schema about plain women who may (or may not) sing extraordinarily well.
One schema tells us Looks do Matter but another schema counteracts with Appearances are Deceptive.

Both are useful, convenient, effective navigational tools as we daily find our way in the world.

Chithra KarunaKaran
City University of New York
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
New York Times copyright
Yes, Looks Do Matter
Published: April 24, 2009