In my last three posts I have described my observation of someone in the street and analyzed it. I had noticed that I discomposed my subject in different hierarchized elements which served my analysis and judgment. But now I am wondering why I have needed to analyze and judge this person? Does it mean that she did not seem normal and accountable to me? Yet someone who does not have a different gender than masculine or feminine does not disturb me. Then I should still cope with social stereotypes about the social representation of couple to have further analyzed this woman. How much do those social codes influence my perception and point of view of the situation?

For instance, I took her long hair as an evidence of the feminity of this person, because long hair are known to be a feminine attribute. Yet nowadays more and more men wear long hair, and more and more woman choose short hair. However long hair still stay the norm, even though it does not agree the reality.

Mark Snyder from the University of Minnesota argues that stereotypes are erroneous because there are a simplified representation of the society. Yet they have a real influence on the perception that someone has of another, and the “social interaction between the individual and the target”1. He explains that stereotypes are widely accepted and stays in the collective unconscious. Then it has an impact on individual beliefs and influence it because it fosters presuppositions about observed stereotyped people. Someone who observes someone else will try to make the reality of its subject correspond to its stereotyped beliefs, finding elements which goes in its way. The issue is then obviously the gap between the stereotype and the truth. The author takes the example of the “social labeling of deviance”.

That means that from the beginning of the experience, my observation is biased by my social attempts and/or by the way I am formatted to see the world around me. Mark Snyder also shows how by this process stereotypes are perpetuated. That means that my observation is not only biased by stereotypes of the society I live in, but also that it fosters them. Then if stereotypes had been different, my perception of this woman would have been also different. I would have had other criteria of analysis and other hierarchy for them. It proves that the way someone matches with social stereotypes affects the way he or she perceives and analyzes people. I would probably not have been surprised by the same things on this person if social codes had been other ones. If I have been surprised it means that it goes against my social attempts of a couple walking in the street, it has discomforted my look at random people around me in this street.

I do not consider myself as narrow-minded or intolerant person. However I must admit that this person has stroke me. Then it proves that social stereotypes have impregnated the unconscious part of my mind more than I would have thought. Does scaling my observation have been a way to hide or deconstruct social prejudices I would have unconsciously?



[1] Hamilton David L., Cognitive Processes in Stereotyping and Intergroup Behavior, Psychology Press, 2015 (1981). Snyder Mark, 6. On the self-perpetuating nature of social stereotypes (p.183)