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The difference between stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination

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In the world of diversity it is important to understand three common terms: stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Although many will use these terms interchangeably each has a very distinct meaning.

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Stereotype is a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion or image according to Yahoo’s dictionary. In other words, stereotyping is a way of thinking.

Prejudice is also a judgment made but prejudice is a verb meaning to judge someone or something prematurely and irrationally. By definition prejudices are negative in nature. To see someone wearing medical clothing with a stethoscope around their neck and jumping to the conclusion their medical professional is a judgment, but it is not a prejudice because there is no negative connotation to being in the field of medicine.

Discrimination is taking action based on prejudices are stereotyping. Most, if not all, discrimination results in unequal treatment of one or more individual regardless of the content of character of an individual.

Here is the easiest way to distinguish between the three terms:

  • Stereotyping equals thinking
  • Prejudice equals feeling
  • Discrimination equals acting

©2014 Max Impact, used with permission.

Diversity resources:

Employment Diversity in Michigan, a human resources networking group on LinkedIn.

Cultural roadmap, look at the contents of the character within each of us.

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Max Impact offers free leadership training and development materials.

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Diversity books and training materials.



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