Sociologists believe that mental categorizing is necessary and inescapable.
One reason people stereotype is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people. Even though stereotyping is inaccurate, it is efficient. Categorization is an essential human capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once one has sorted and organized everyone into tidy categories, there is every incentive to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual. Assigning general group characteristics to members of that group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world.
People also tend to stereotype because of another the need to feel good about oneself. Stereotypes protect one from anxiety and enhance self-esteem. By designating one’s own group as the standard or normal group and assigning others to groups considered inferior or abnormal, it provides one with a sense of worth.
Childhood influences are some of the most complex and influential factors in developing stereotypes. Though they can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Once a stereotype is learned, it often becomes self-perpetuating.
Studies have shown that women stereotype more negatively than men, and that women read into appearance more than men.”