What are the characteristics of stereotypes and reference groups?  

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jking22 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to understand what some characteristics of stereotypes and reference groups are, one must first define what each one is. A stereotype can be defined generally as a generalized belief that a person holds about another person, or group of people. A reference group on the other hand can generally be defined as any group, or groups, a person belongs to that "set a standard for guiding behavior and attitudes." 

Characteristics of stereotypes include assumptions made about a person because of their belonging to a particular group. An important characteristic of these assumptions is that they may be positive, or negative, or in some cases both, depending on how the stereotype is viewed. Another characteristic of stereotypes is that they can be implicit or explicit. This means that they can be acknowledge by the person cognitively (explicit), or they may occur subconsciously without the person realizing the stereotype exists (implicit). 

Characteristics of reference groups include both in groups and out groups. In groups are groups that a person is a member of that help to form their beliefs and values. Generally, people are happy to be members of these in groups. This differs from out groups, which represent groups a person is not part of that may hold different beliefs and values then their own. In groups and out groups can engage in various interactions in society. Sometimes these interactions can be friendly, but other times interactions between groups can be negative and/or aggressive.

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