Stereotyping is a method used in most market studies in order to gauge the attitude or general opinion of a given group. Based on the answers given in a carefully chosen set of questions, generalisations are then made.
But stereotyping is not only used in market studies. People from all walks of life and on both sides of the intellectual spectrum make judgments, most usually prejudicial, of people different from themselves. Whether it be in terms of skin colour or values–political or religious, education or socio-cultural norms–people form very strong opinions.
The Philippines has many of its citizens working abroad as domestics. They send money home to feed families who cannot survive as farmers. The word “Filipino” has come to mean to many people as the word for “maid.”
Germany is stigmatised by the World Wars, and Germany to most people is considered a nation of nazis and racist extremists. I know some Germans who had nothing to do with the Wars, weep when they talk of what their nation had done. I know some Jews whose hatred for the German race is totally blind.
America is a country of two faces. It has come to be regarded less and less a nation of democracy, liberty and freedom, but more and more a face that has absolutely no respect for international law, whether it be the Geneva Convention, the Kyoto Protocol or the laws of the International Crime Tribunal. The mask of “democracy” and the rhetoric of “national interests” conceal their true face. America is a nation of liars. But they need a mirror to see themselves for what the world sees them as.
Have you noticed the common thread among these examples that forms the basis for generalising a country’s people? On a major scale, you will see that it is the policies of the nation’s government that creates the stereotype. Because of attention inertia, rewiring the brain and changing pre-conceived notions and perceptions will be difficult.