A stereotype is a preconceived notion, widely held but fixed image or idea of a particular person or group of persons, usually with an attending generalization and extrapolation to a wider range.
In a normal distribution (Gaussian) curve, which is usually bell-shaped, there’s a portion carved out for ‘Outliers’ – the minority.
If the number of events is very large, then the Gaussian distribution function may be used to describe physical events.
In statistics, the term Outliers refers to an observation that lies an abnormal distance from other values in a random sample from a population. An Outlier is considered abnormal simply because of its difference in location to the others, which however does not deny its existence.
In analysing or understanding human behaviour, we must always keep in mind the Gaussian curve, the existence of Outliers – they exist, albeit differently.
It is criminal to deny their existence simply based on their different location in space, locus on the grid, reasoning and patterns. We have people among us who think differently, believe differently and live differently against all odds, regardless of popular opinions, views and prevailing circumstances. They don’t bend or adjust to the majority, they just keep existing differently. Yes, they are few but they exist.
So, let’s get back to stereotypes. Consider these few common ones:
All politicians are corrupt.
All men are liars and they all cheat.
All women are promiscuous.
We are all sinners.
Everyone is doing it.
No matter how much you love a man, he will still cheat on you.
All women nag.
Men are not emotional.
I’m a lady, that’s why I’m behaving this way.
I’m doing what I do because it’s what men do.
There are many more, some stereotypes are presently being formed this very moment. When you hold these stereotypes strongly, you’ll end up being right say 95-98% of the time. How about the 2-5% wrong times? Do they matter? How would you feel if you happen to be an outlier lumped up with the crowd?
Why do we try so frantically to be like others when we can put in some work to create a unique version of ourselves?
Why are we quick to geometrically project a single variable to the entire population of a set?
Why are we so caustic to the idea that one person in the whole wide world may actually not be as bad as the rest of us?
Why do we argue vehemently when we are faced with issues like ‘There are still faithful men’, ‘There is still true love out there’, ‘Not all policemen are corrupt’?
Of course, I am not suggesting that everyone does the above, otherwise I would have already defeated the purpose of this piece. I believe there’s at least one person out there (asides myself of course) who doesn’t generalise as described above.
The number of outliers is originally few by nature, some of the ‘members’ of the normal distribution (popular, majority) are probably weak outliers who bowed to pressure and got lumped up with the majority. The universe misses out constantly on unique individuals every time this happens. Don’t blend in my friend, stand out.
Imagine you’re one politician who isn’t corrupt, and every soul already categorizes you as corrupt, regardless of what you do or do not do; you will have to be extra firm and determined to remain incorruptible in the face of popular opinion seeing you otherwise. You will be constantly faced with the temptation to embrace a little corruption, they already think you are anyway.
This is how people bow to pressure and blend in, and the blame is partly theirs for blending in, but also to blame is anyone who consciously or unconsciously nurses the stereotype that all politicians are corrupt. Now, I could pick each of the earlier stated stereotypes and the currently being invented ones and say exactly the same things about them.
Let us together stop the pressure-producing effects of stereotypes today, Stand with the Outliers, save the unique ones from extinction, maintain your personal uniqueness – don’t blend in.
Give every single soul you meet the benefit of doubt ALWAYS. Never get tired of giving the benefit of the doubt regardless of previous experiences, this is the only way you will not miss out on that rare 1% scenario that you are really looking out for.
Oluwatosin E. Fatade
So what part of the curve do you represent?