Stereotyping occurs without question on a daily basis virtually everywhere around the world. People make generalisations on people due to their age, gender, sex, ethnicity, hair colour & more. Generalisations are made on places based on a glance, & objects (such as cars for instance) based solely on who they are made, what they look like, or other simple details which often give no real indication of what the object in question is like individually. This form of stereotyping accounts for peoples views on everything from people & objects, to places, animals, ideas, roles, classes, & practically everything imaginable, even to affairs such as weather (The general opinion that all rain is bad; when arid locations will undoubtedly disagree).
These stereotypes obviously extend even into all areas of media & entertainment, such as computer & video games; and this is where the focus of this research will lead. However, in order to understand the deeper psychological root of stereotyping, research must still be taken into the most basic forms of stereotyping, not to mention understanding the root of what, in psychological terms, a stereotype actually is.
According to Perry R. Hinton, a stereotype generally possesses three primary components to it.
Firstly the focus (in this case a group of people for instance), such as a nationality, a religious group, age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, hair colour, or eye colour to name just a few. People then become identified by a single characteristic; i.e. that all people of a certain gender like football, all people with a certain occupation like the same programs on television, all people from a certain ethnicity have similar lifestyle choices, or all people of a certain nationality possess similar tastes in food & drink.
This form of identification separates a previously undefined group of people from everybody else. For instance, by referring to Irish people, we are separating them from the English, Chinese, Americans & other nationalities. Talking about ‘blondes’ rules out people with brown, black red or grey or ginger hair.
Secondly a series of characteristics are attributed to the group as a whole. The Irish for therefore then viewed as drunks, and the blondes seen as airheaded, even though a blonde Irishman may be a highly intelligent professor who doesn’t even drink alcohol. The main feature of the stereotype that is formed though is that people then view that characteristic as applying to every member of that group by default.
Thirdly, when a person is discovered to possess one of these characteristics, the resulting characteristics become immediately applied to them. On meeting a blonde woman it is immediately assumed she must be an airhead or a ‘bimbo’, when it may actually be that she is an astronaut or military commander.
The key points put forwards by psychologists such as Walter Lippmann are that stereotypes are basically simplified ‘pictures in our heads’ which are created by our minds as our brains cannot cope with the complexity of the ‘real’ world which is far too big & complex for us to handle.
Overall stereotypes are usually considered false and incorrect; and that the truth very rarely matches up with the stereotype; at least in the ‘real’ world. The point here is that within entertainment & media (& particularly video games), stereotypes tend to be used extensively & often lived up to much more than would be likely in reality.