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Social Categorization Essay

839 words - 3 pages

Social Categorization

Humans are very efficient creatures and we use many tools to compress,
utilize, and retain information. One of the tools that we use is
termed social categorization. Social categorization describes a kind
organization used by people to remember social interactions. By
thinking of people as members of a group rather than as individuals
one can simplify and recall information quickly. As social creatures,
humans come in contact with many people of different colors, shapes,
sizes, and genders so this categorization, to some degree, is useful.
However, it also creates several social problems including, but not
limited to: discrimination, prejudice, racism, and stereotyping.

Social Categories, regardless of their negative aspects, serve a
purpose. They are efficient. Imagine having to sift through a pile of
papers, with no kind of order, to find one specific page of notes. How
hard would that be? It is much better to have the papers organized so
one can find what one is looking for easily (Blaine 15). In several
studies subjects were asked to process traits of a made-up person
while performing an unrelated cognitive task like listening to a
lecture. Some of the subjects were primed with a category (priming is
a procedure where word is flashed rapidly on a computer screen and a
person can't consciously comprehend it). The results showed that the
people who were primed did significantly better on the post-test than
those who were not. This demonstrates that categorizing is not a
cognitive (conscious) behavior; it simply helps us conserve resources
for other cognitive activities, such as memory and attention. Thinking
of a group is easier than identifying and attributing characteristics
to an individual and it requires less cognition (Blaine 16).

We use perceptual salience to create categories. Perceptual salience
is a term that describes one's tendency to be drawn to the noticeable,
or salient, characteristics in a situation or a person. These atypical
qualities cause us to categorize because we associate people with
similar characteristics with each other. Blaine explains that even if
people within a category have many different characteristics, only
their most noticeable characteristics will be...

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