My Interview with Professor Lydia Eckstein Jackson from Allegheny College
|Scooped by Mia Barchetti|
Professor Lydia Eckstein Jackson
Title: Assistant Professor of Psychology at Allegheny College
Degrees: B.S. and M.S., Humboldt University Berlin, Ph.D., University of Tennessee Knoxville
1. Do you ever find yourself judging someone before you have officially met them?
2. Why do people categorize today's society by looks, actions, and speech?
3. Who influences our judgment more? Our parents or peers? Why?
4. Are stereotypes good or bad for our society? What makes them good? What makes them bad?
5. What can we do as a society to prevent certain stereotyping?
I do, on occasion, find myself judging someone before I have actually met them or spoken with them - e.g., based on dress, accent, etc.. We actually all arrive at these very quick judgments, and it takes some concerted effort to counteract them and remind ourselves that it is often worthwhile to deliberately think why the initial reaction may have been wrong. It is actually very beneficial for us to stereotype, because it allows us to navigate the world quickly and efficiently. However, these mental shortcuts also often come at the expense of precision and accuracy.
So, stereotypes in and of themselves are not bad - they can help us quickly navigate a very complex (and otherwise overwhelming) world. Think of your stereotype of a cop or a doctor or a nurse... their uniforms are activating those shortcuts that tell you "when in need, these guys can help." Stereotypes become problematic when they box us in and prevent us from pushing past initial impressions. When we never allow ourselves to challenge the stereotypes and when we discriminate based on them. For example, when we assume "every Asian is x" "ever sorority member is y", "every blonde is z" without ever trying to learn more we may avoid these members and harbor false beliefs about them that may perpetuate problematic relationships between groups (see racism, sexism, ageism, classism, etc.).
I would argue that it is less about preventing stereotypes than about training ourselves to be mindful of the fact that these are just shortcuts, which often carry a kernel of truth, but which also often come up short. So, being aware that we are operating on stereotypes, and then pushing past them and allowing ourselves to find out more about the other person...i.e., to not be boxed in by our preconceived notions and recognizing that while we all belong to groups, we are also all individuals.
As to whether our parents or peers influence our judgments more... that's difficult to say. Certainly, both are related and in many ways I would argue the parents have a bigger impact. We spend many years with our parents (and, assuming they are biological parents, we share some of their genes, of course) and parents are the ones who choose most of our childhood situations for us - so, our parents choose the neighborhood we live in, and the schools that will eventually lead to our peers. Nevertheless, as we get older, peer group matters quite a bit. (Again, however, keep in mind that we also choose our peers based on how similar to us and our attitudes they are already.)