One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…

Titus 1:12-13

Supposed you went to China, what language would you use when you speak to an East Asian looking fellow? Of course you would speak Mandarin. Is this stereotyping? Yes, of course it is. He may very well be Korean or Japanese. He maybe a Hongkee. He may not know any Mandarin and maybe an American born Chinese. But common sense simply tells us that the margin of an East Asian looking fellow in China not having mandarin as his first language is rather small. What would be foolish and a waste of time would be to approach EVERY Chinese in China and begin first with speaking English before being corrected and reverting to mandarin.

What many people don’t understand is that information processing cost resources. To save time and resources, we have to generalise and live in a world of probabilities. Most people do not have time or resources to track down every particular detail about every individual before making a decision on how to act. Stereotyping is simply a cost-efficient information processing system for any entity that possesses less than infinite resources to gather all the facts. It is not perfect, but without infinite resources and time to track down every tiny detail, information processing systems needs to be cost-effective, which will require that we sacrifice some accuracy and allow an inevitable margin of error in our judgement. Thus, stereotyping is largely reliable in it that it is a generalisation of characteristics that are largely true for the set under consideration, and that the cost of increasing accuracy to determine the characteristics of those who do not conform to the stereotype is prohibitively high given the less than proportionate compensation for this accuracy. That there is an exception to many rules is a commonsensical truism, but generalisations are necessary to be able to make substantive and meaningful empirical observations. Judgements and analysis would be impossible in a framework which requires a thousand qualifications, not forgetting impossibly time-consuming. A vocabulary consisting of nothing but proper nouns is impossible.

As such, both corporate bodies and individual decision makers, who possess less than infinite information processing capabilities, necessarily generalise and make decisions or judgements based on stereotypes. The charge that public policies “stereotype” make absolutely no sense. Of course public general policies and laws operate on stereotypes. All laws, in so far as it is framed in general categories, necessary uses general terms and prescribes general actions to fit with the general categories. A law which prescribes a different treatment for every particular case is not a law or rule in any sense of the word. The prescription of a rule aims at the maximal benefit or effect and as such, uses stereotypes which are reliably true for the vast majority of people in the set under consideration.

Judgybitch spoke about how one of her friend’s daughter went to the house of a single parent and ended up dancing naked on a webcam. She then said:

I know I will catch hell for this in my actual, lived reality, but one inescapable conclusion that I have come to is that children of single mothers have giant red stop-signs over their heads when it comes to interacting with my kids.

Obviously there are some single mothers who are doing a stellar job, but they’re pretty easy to pick out. They’re older, financially stable, own their own homes and are surrounded by a loving family with lots of male role models. Those aren’t the typical single mothers, though. The ones who are young and poor with no real job skills or accomplishments of any kind are probably single mothers as a result of sheer stupidity, and yes, I’m deeply suspicious of their children. In no way do I blame the children – it was not their choice.

But I recognize them as a threat, and it won’t take all that long before people figure out that JBs kids do not go over to the homes of kids who have single mothers. Those kids can come to my house, under limited conditions and they will be very carefully supervised, but under no circumstances are my children going over to play with any kid who sets my Spidey senses off.

Intellectually, I can see how unfair that is. Emotionally, I don’t give a fuck.

Sorry, kid. But my kids come first.

To which I made the following reply:

Nope, intellectually it makes perfect sense…

…Information gathering cost resources, money and time to accumulate. And since no one on earth has infinite time or resources to determine in exact detail what a person is “really” like, and as a busy mother I’m sure you don’t have time to do extensive background checks on every child who wants to play with your daughter, generalisations and stereotypes are necessary “cost-efficient” information processing mechanisms for weeding out the wheat from the tares.

Sure, it is not perfect and necessarily includes a margin of error. But after a certain differential point, the cost to information ratio increases exponentially and it is simply not worth the astronomical amount of resources one needs to spend just to acquire that smidgen of information.

I’m sure it offends the educated literati to no end to learn that the acquisition of truth and enlightenment is not the exalted spiritual endeavor they imagine it to be actually requires all too earthly resources entangled with all too material considerations. But welcome to the real world I guess.

Update: There seems to be good evidence that statistically stereotypes really do get it right more often than not.

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