Stereotyping and generalising


Activity: Consider the impact stereotypes based on generalisations have on students’ learning in schools.


Stereotyping can be considered a form of jumping to a conclusion. The conclusion is based on a generalisation and is a short cut we make in our heads to determine a conclusion quickly.

The misleading thing about generalisations is that you are relying on only some information or evidence to form your conclusion and not the complete picture.

Stereotyping based on generalisations can play out in our thinking in at least two ways;

  1. Observing that some members of a group share a particular trait and inferring that all members of the group have this trait. This is generalising.
  2. Observing that an individual has a particular trait and classifying that person into a group which are ‘known’ for that trait i.e. based on generalising.

Activity: Detect illogical thinking

The following activity will allow you to detect illogical thinking. You can then practise detecting similar faulty thinking when thinking about stereotypes and generalisations that you may have heard or hold about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:

Example Faulty:
Illogical thinking (why)
Logical thinking
A. Michael says pink is a girl’s colour. Mr Stewart wears pink shirts to school so he must be a girl.
B. Chris says Byron Bay is near Queensland. Liz doesn’t live in Byron Bay, therefore she must not live near Queensland.
C. All babies are born from their mother. This is a baby, so she must have been born from her mother.
D. Celebrities are interesting. Donny is a celebrity, so he must be interesting.
E. Most students who do well at school are good at spelling. I am not good at spelling so I will never do well at school.
F. My fence is made out of wood. This is a piece of wood, so it must be a piece of my fence.
G. Bananas are a fruit that can be peeled. This fruit can be peeled, it must be a banana.
H. Italians eat pasta. You eat pasta, you must be Italian.
I. Some Baby Boomers don’t believe that humans are the cause of climate change; Jan is a Baby Boomer so she must not believe humans are the cause of climate change.
J. All people breathe air; Ken is a person so he breathes air.
K. No woman has been president of the USA; Susan Henson is a woman and therefore she will never be president of the USA.

Activity adapted from Mathew Lipman’s exercise on Stereotype p. 36 of Philosophical Inquiry: An instructional manual to accompany Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children 2nd ed., 1984.

Further reading

  1. Facts the Facts using this link: 
  2. Beyond the myths (scroll down to learn the truth about popular myths).