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(Meta) stereotypes and (intergenerational) cooperation

Mirjana Mladič

You have surely heard of stereotypes – generalized opinions that we form based on our own or others’ experiences and extend them to an entire group of people to which one or more representatives belong, using them to shape our own opinions. To some extent, stereotypes help us quickly understand the world and the people around us, but more often than not, they lead us to wrong conclusions or even prejudices. But what are meta-stereotypes? What does both of this mean for cooperation? And how does it all impact us? Find the answers in the following…



Stereotypes are general perceptions, opinions, or beliefs about a particular group of people that are characteristic of that group, such as their traits, abilities, behavior, or appearance. Stereotypes are often negative, especially when it comes to minority groups or those that are socially stigmatized. Stereotypes can influence our behavior towards other people and can lead to discrimination, prejudice, and inequality.


It's important to note that stereotypes are not necessarily incorrect or negative. In some cases, stereotypes may be based on facts and experiences, but they can become problematic when the general perception of a group is oversimplified or used to evaluate all individuals within the group, regardless of their individual characteristics.


Furthermore, stereotypes can have a negative impact on individuals who identify with the group being stereotyped. Such individuals may face issues with self-esteem and self-respect, feeling that others perceive them as members of a negative group, even though they themselves do not exhibit the negative traits associated with the stereotype.


Therefore, it's important to be aware of our stereotypes and try to recognize and overcome them in order to reduce the negative effects they can have on individuals and groups. This can be achieved through education, a deeper understanding of other cultures and groups, and the promotion of positive intercultural interactions and understanding.

What about meta-stereotypes?

Meta-stereotypes are biases that refer to opinions we hold about other people’s stereotypes or how we believe others perceive us. In other words, a meta-stereotype is a prejudice we have about how other people think about stereotypes and how they will behave towards us if they see us as members of a particular group.

If we have a meta-stereotype that people from a certain group often use stereotypes to evaluate other groups, it can affect our behavior in their presence. If we believe that people from this group will stereotype us, we may feel threatened or vulnerable, which can impact our communication skills and self-esteem.

Meta-stereotypes are not necessarily based on facts and are often irrational. They can stem from our personal experiences or be transmitted from social norms and attitudes we hear or read. Because meta-stereotypes influence our relationships with others, it’s important to recognize them and attempt to change our thought processes to mitigate the negative effects they can have on our behavior and relationships with others.

Stereotypes and Intergenerational Cooperation

Stereotypes and meta-stereotypes can significantly impact intergenerational cooperation. They can lead to discrimination and inequality, which can negatively affect relationships between different generations. If stereotypes are used to assess individuals based on their generation, it can lead to a lack of trust and communication difficulties.

For instance, the stereotype that older people are unfriendly and inflexible can lead younger generations to struggle to collaborate with them and avoid intergenerational interactions. On the other hand, the stereotype that young people are irresponsible and unemployed can lead older generations to underestimate their abilities and needs and treat them as inferior.

Similarly, meta-stereotypes can influence intergenerational cooperation by causing false assumptions about how another generation thinks and behaves. For example, if younger generations believe that older generations don’t value their ideas and don’t listen to them, they may feel ignored and unworthy. Conversely, if older generations believe that younger generations are irresponsible and careless, they may feel threatened or vulnerable.

To enhance intergenerational cooperation, it’s crucial to be aware of our stereotypes and meta-stereotypes and strive to transcend them. This can be achieved through education, deepening our understanding of other generations, and promoting positive intergenerational interactions and dialogue. Listening to others and valuing their experiences and viewpoints is essential, as well as making efforts to establish equitable relationships based on respect and trust.

Alright, what about biases then?

Biases are unjust and often unfounded negative attitudes or opinions that people develop about others based on their membership in a certain group or category, such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. Biases are often linked to stereotypes, as they are based on generalized perceptions of a particular group or category of people.

When people have stereotypical ideas about a certain group of people, these ideas can translate into biases. Biases are negative judgments and incorrect opinions about a specific group of people that are based on stereotypes. For example, the stereotype that members of a certain race are prone to violence can lead to biases about that race, which can result in discrimination and inequality.

Discrimination can impact various aspects of life, including opportunities for education, employment, housing, healthcare, and other fundamental rights. Biases can also lead to marginalization and social exclusion, which can result in various forms of violence and injustices.

One way to combat biases is through education and raising awareness about different cultures, traditions, and perspectives. This can help eliminate stereotypes and negative biases, and contribute to promoting tolerance and respect for diversity. It’s important for individuals to be aware of their biases and strive to confront them in a way that encourages acceptance and respect for others and their cultures.

However, it’s important to understand that stereotypes and biases are often unfounded and unfair. They develop based on generalizations about a specific group of people and fail to consider individual differences and context. Therefore, people should be aware of their stereotypes and biases and make an effort to confront them in a way that promotes acceptance and respect for diversity.

It’s important to recognize that the process of overcoming biases can be challenging and requires ongoing effort and commitment. It’s necessary to be open to learning, adapting to new situations, and having self-awareness about one’s own limitations and biases.

Impact on Work Environment

Stereotypes, meta-stereotypes, and biases can have a strong impact on the work environment within a company, as they can lead to discrimination, inequality, reduced productivity, and low employee morale.

When employees hold stereotypical perceptions about their colleagues based on factors like gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., it can result in inequalities in hiring, promotions, and rewards. This leads to employee dissatisfaction as those who experience discrimination feel unfairly treated. This can also lead to decreased productivity, as employees may feel less motivated if they perceive that their work is undervalued or that they won’t advance due to the stereotypical beliefs of their colleagues.

Employees may also develop stereotypical perceptions about other companies and industries (meta-stereotypes). If these relate to certain groups of people, it can lead to discrimination in hiring and collaboration with other companies.

Biases can result in inaccurate assessments and unfair treatment of employees. For instance, biases about certain groups being less capable can lead to unequal treatment in assigning tasks and responsibilities. This can lead to lower productivity and employee dissatisfaction, as they feel unjustly treated.

Did you experience an “aha” moment while reading? Did you recognize someone you know, a friend, relative, or coworker? What about yourself? Not every stereotype is negative; sometimes they can help us. Meta-stereotypes pose a greater challenge as they often lead to (mis)interpretations that guide our (inappropriate) actions. Biases, however, are a problem since they are typically negative and inaccurate. Let’s become aware of them and eliminate them one by one. The webinars on the Moje znanje portal might also help you: Different or Wrong?; Understanding Prevents Anger and Takes Care of the Liver; Positive Attitude – a Trait of a Good Colleague, or The Secrets of Our Thoughts and Beliefs, as well as Intergenerational Cooperation.