What’s Wrong with Stereotypes? The Falsity Hypothesis

Social Theory and Practice 47 (1):33-61 (2021)
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Abstract

Stereotypes are commonly alleged to be false or inaccurate views of groups. For shorthand, I call this the falsity hypothesis. The falsity hypothesis is widespread and is often one of the first reasons people cite when they explain why we shouldn’t use stereotypic views in cognition, reasoning, or speech. In this essay, I argue against the falsity hypothesis on both empirical and ameliorative grounds. In its place, I sketch a more promising view of stereotypes—which avoids the falsity hypothesis—that joins my earlier work on stereotypes in individual psychology with the work of Patricia Hill Collins on cultural stereotypes. According to this two-part hybrid theory, stereotypes are controlling images or ideas that enjoy both a psychological and cultural existence, which serve a regulative social function.

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Erin Beeghly
University of Utah

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