When stereotypes are so stupid they become funny

Originally I intended to include this little pill of knowledge in the previous post on the Science of Prejudice, but then that one ended up being all so serious about the future of science and the spreading of knowledge and Brian Cox spitting on his hand, so I decided not to.

But these two graphs are too good to be kept hidden away in a corner of the Internet.

So, here I’m showing you data that Susan Fiske’s lab has collected from Italy and Britain, regarding prejudice and stereotypes by class. Again, we see each social group plotte

d on a graph against warmth and competence.

I laughed pretty hard when I saw this, probably because I am Italian and I’ve lived in England for so many years. But come on, look, mafiosi are considered FAR MORE competent than politicians in Italy, and only very vaguely warmer! And again, politicians are seen as less competent and less warm than handymen, office workers and students. This is excellent stuff, so true, so sad and so funny.

Now let’s have a look at the English sample. Who’s at the very bottom of competence and warmth? Who are the people you English readers are more afraid of, the people you don’t want to meet, the people your parents warned about? No, not criminals. Chavs! Never mind the cr

iminals, what’s the worst they can do? Mug you and put a gun at your head, or blow up shopping centres. Chavs, however, they are scary little white ignorance-spreading monsters. With no sense of fashion. Ok, I know, this is stupid, but we are looking at a chart of stereotypes after all, what can we expect if not stupidity? Still, I find this very interesting and I think it gives a good insight into a culture’s darkest traits and secrets. For example, it’s sad to see that the unemployed are considered only just slightly more competent than children (maybe I’m just saying this because I am unemployed! Damn…). Oh and look, gays are perceived as being warmer than students. Cool! Does that mean that the English are really open and ac

cepting of the gay community or that they just absolutely despise students? Hopefully it’s the latter.

Susan Fiske chart Italians
Susan Fiske chart English
But what about prejudice in non-human animals? Let’s stop thinking of ourselves as outside the animal kingdom, we all share similar problems in the end. Take a look at these two birds I saw today in New York. There you have a perfect example of racial clash! I bet there’s quite a lot of plumage colour prejudice around these parts…

And look at what happens when a third bird is introduced. We have a serious case of duck prejudice here!


Right, after this, I’m off to bed.


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