Generalization is defined as a general statement or concept obtained by inference from specific cases.  It is what we do on a regular basis often without giving it much thought and it should not be confused with stereotypes which is what generalizations become when ALL members of a group are categorized as having the same characteristics.  Stereotypes tend to be linked to cultural groups based on race, religion, nationality, gender or age and while they can be both positive and negative we certainly are more aware of the ones with negative connotations.

There really is not much difference between the two and I guess it’s more how you use it.  I think of stereotypes as mostly negative statements made about a group of people which make them all seem the same while generalizations are more likely broad statements based on your experiences and examples.

In searching the internet I saw this list as statements of generalization:

  • All parents try to make life difficult for their children.
  • Every salesman lies to make more money on a sale.
  • Women all want to have large families.
  • Men are all afraid of commitment.
  • Professional athletes are arrogant and cocky.
  • Most politicians are greedy and manipulative.
  • Cats are meaner than dogs….dogs are smarter than cats.
  • Most people find church boring.
  • Only a fool would believe what that commercial says (unless you hear it on WOBM).
  • Learning to drive isn’t difficult.
  • College is the only way a person can be properly educated.
  • Rich people are greedy….poor people are lazy.
  • Good looking people are always stuck up.
  • All success is brought about by good luck.
  • Police officers are corrupt….police officers are heroes.
  • A long commute to work makes a person much less productive.
  • Anyone can learn to cook if they only try. (My wife believes this to be true).
  • The customer is always right.
  • And lastly, the “Hometown View” is always entertaining and informative. (Clearly not accurate all the time).

Bottom line is generalizations are statements that are often true but not completely true in all cases and we should be careful as to how we use them.

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