If you’ve heard a saying like “All Canadians Are Nice”, then you’ve experienced a "stereotype".
A stereotype is a way humans think about others based on groupings of information. While stereotypes can sometimes be useful, they can also be very harmful.
How's that? Well, stereotypes are often wrong. Stereotypes can hurt someone’s feelings. Worse yet, stereotypes can prevent people from doing activities that they enjoy or are very good at.
For example, a study asked several female Asian students to perform a math test. When asked to focus on their ethnic background before taking the test, they did well. This is due to the stereotype of "Asians being good in math". But, if the students were asked to focus on their gender before taking the test, they did worse! This is due to the influence of the stereotype that "girls are bad at math".
Can we stop all stereotypes before they start? Unfortunately, research suggests that is not possible. This is because humans naturally like to group things. But what we can do is to break down these stereotypes. This involves showing exceptions until stereotypes are no longer accepted.
No one should have to carry the weight of harmful and false rules of thumb. By countering stereotypes, we can try to make sure that everyone can follow their dreams.