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Reflection – M. Serkan Pektas

by on November 13, 2007

We think in generalities, but we live in details. – Alfred North Whitehead

On November 7th class, we talked about stereotyping and its disadvantages in the working life. After this discussion, I researched and found the quote that I really like: We think in generalities, but we live in details.

I realize the importance of that quote after I experienced my close relative’s illness. The first thing that I did after I heard about my relative had ovarian cancer, I researched over internet, and I found some information and statistics about that illness. As I am a statistician, I do have tendency to make generalization, and I count on statistics. According to articles that I had read, this type of cancer is diagnosed at the third step of the illness, and after this stage there is a minimal chance of survival of the patient for next couple of years. Those are statistics and scientific results. I think most of you can guess my feelings after I realized that I might not her when I go back to my country. Thanks to God and blessed surgeons, doctors, and nurses, my relative had a successful surgery and got a series of chemotherapy, now she is healthy as before. My point is that even if generalization depends on scientific results, it does not resemble to a specific case. Each and every case has unique properties.

Psychoanalytically-oriented humanists have argued (e.g., Sander Gilman) that stereotypes, by definition, are never accurate representations, but a projection of an individual’s fears onto others, regardless of the reality of others[1]. There is not only negative stereotyping, but also positive stereotyping. Both of them may be accurate or inaccurate regarding average characteristics of a group, and may be used to justify certain discriminatory behaviors. This is the key point we need to be careful. Everybody has some beliefs that may be counted as stereotyping; however those beliefs should not be influence attitudes towards people in the form of discriminatory actions. The discriminatory behaviors increase hostility between groups.
Stereotyping, even the scientific approach of stereotyping statistics, may be mistaken you at your expectation. Stereotyping is a pitfall that you have never wanted to fall in.

[1] Stereotype. (2007, November 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:37, November 10, 2007, from

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