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It is worth noting that stereotypes are simplistic, schematized, and emotionally colored images of a social group or community. Labels can be applied to the majority of representatives of a particular group, and they emphasize the erroneous representations of people (Healey & Stepnick, 2016). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the impressions of the activity conducted on the topic of diversity groups and reflect on the ideas gained in the discussion of convict stereotypes.
Prior to taking part in the activity, I believed that the knowledge of socio-demographic characteristics of a person was of particular importance due to the fact that they had a potential to reveal the qualities of the individual to the fullest degree. For instance, I assumed that the possession of a degree indicated a certain level of education and the rich work experience displayed the attitude of a person to bearing responsibilities. Nevertheless, this stereotypical form of thinking was dispelled in the course of the exercise, and I was able to understand that socio-demographic criteria were only of secondary importance and the presence of certain characteristics did not reflect the personality of an individual.
In particular, during the exercise, the topic of convicts was discussed, and the specific characteristics and stereotypes that were associated with this population group were addressed. Initially, I assumed that the existence of a criminal record gave the basis for the assumption that this person had specific negative qualities. However, this statement was also stereotypical and could not be used as a platform for building representations that could characterize all convicts (Jones, Dovidio, & Vietze, 2013).
During the discussion, my role was to analyze the labels about prisoners while the other people needed to compile a list of characteristics and stereotypes that people usually have when thinking about convicts. It turned out that in the majority of cases, people have a lot of stereotypes linked to convicts, which are associated with almost all aspects of their life (Jones et al., 2013). For example, such factors as poor educational environment and availability of work, person’s hobbies, the weak bond with relatives, and insignificant aspirations for improving the individual’s well-being affect the evolvement of the criminal’s personality. Therefore, this discussion revealed that people tend to reason under the influence of certain stereotypes that they have developed in the course of their life and these stereotypes and characteristics that are attributed to convicts have an accusing character. It can be assumed that these accusatory stereotypes are formed as a stable system of reaction to environmental factors; however, the same pattern can be applied to the convicts themselves.
One of the key stereotypes that were analyzed during the exercise was the assertion that a convict, when being engaged in the criminal activity, also develops peculiar habits and skills, which implies that a criminal stereotype exists within the convict him or herself (Jones et al., 2013). Therefore, this type of label has a dual nature since it assumes that certain norms of behavior form stereotypes to which the conduct of the convict should correspond (Jones et al., 2013). Importantly, these representations about the particular behavior are built both in the perceptions of society and in the convict. It can be stated that such a complex label complicates the adequate perception of convicts and their perceptions of themselves.
Reflections on the Importance of Diversity
It should be stressed that the activity has influenced my assumptions about diversity groups to a great degree due to the fact that I was able to transform them into a different form of thinking. Prior to the exercise, I used to share the stereotypes discussed above; however, after the discussion I was able to comprehend that all stereotypes about convicts root from generalizations, which is inappropriate since every person has a unique system of values, individual background, and the factors that have influenced his or her life path (Jones et al., 2013). Therefore, it is unreasonable to apply the same labels to different people. In addition, my role and the role of others is to understand that diversity matters. People with a criminal record should not be perceived negatively in all cases as their backgrounds are different and all of them contribute to the development of society. Thus, my initial perceptions have produced strongly negative emotions and attitudes toward convicts, which affected the way I reacted to such people, which was a false stereotypical conduct.
It can be concluded that the activity has contributed greatly to my understanding of diversity and influenced the way I, as well as my classmates, rationalize about stereotypes. In general, any form of labeling people in either positive or negative way is inappropriate since individuals with similar backgrounds can have varied representations, and these perceptions are influenced by their identity in the first place. Notably, the environment also plays a significant role in the formation of a person; nevertheless, this role is secondary. Therefore, it is incorrect to form certain stereotypes and universal characteristics of convicts since each person has unique features.
Healey, J. F., & Stepnick, A. (2016). Diversity and society: Race, ethnicity, and gender (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Jones, J. M., Dovidio, J. F, & Vietze, D. L. (2013). The psychology of diversity: Beyond prejudice and racism. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.