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Stereotypes and Generalizations

Individuals have considerable misgivings when they hear cultural generalizations, often viewing them as stereotypes and, as such, socially unacceptable. Almost instinctively, a person may say the following:

Each of these well-intentioned comments brings up an important point: No broad statement of a cultural pattern applies to any given individual. Intercultural competence is not built on stereotypes but can be supported through generalizations.

Through a comparison of stereotypes and generalizations (or archetypes), this entry will examine several ways to distinguish stereotypes from archetypes and will describe constructive approaches to the cautious use of generalizations.

Definitions

Stereotypes are rigid generalizations that characterize others based on the ethnocentric perspective of an outsider. They tend to ignore the worldview of the culture being experienced and instead reflect a dualistic frame of mind, typically ...

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