Difference Between Stereotyping and Labeling

Stereotyping vs Labeling

Stereotyping and Labeling are two different concepts with a noticeable difference between them even though, most of us confuse these as interchangeable. In the society, we can observe many instances where stereotyping and labeling of individuals take place. These can involve various manners of ill-treatment of other. First let us define the two words. Stereotyping can be defined as a form of generalization of a group of people or else a simplified outlook. Labeling, on the other hand, has to be understood as a categorization. Labeling has to be viewed as a mere categorization that influence our stereotyping of others. This highlights that there exists a difference between stereotyping and labeling. This article attempts to emphasize the difference between stereotyping and labeling.

What is Stereotyping?

A stereotype is a generalization of a group of people. This can be based on a prior assumption of a group from which the individual build a simplified outlook to that particular group. For example, boys are naughty, girls are weak are some examples of stereotyping. This points out that it provides a generalized opinion of a group, which can be false for a majority or minority. There can be positive stereotyping as well as negative stereotyping.

Gordon Allport, a renowned psychologist, stated ‘stereotypes emerge as a result of normal human thinking.’ People usually build mental categories to sort information. These are referred to as ‘schemas.’ Schemas or else mental shortcuts allow us to make sense of the world. Once a schema has been developed it allows us to identify other individuals in accordance to the characteristics that we have complied. For example, think of a doctor, or a teacher. You will notice that there are certain expectations about the appearance and behavior of that particular individual. These are schemas.

Stereotyping takes place based on differences in people. It can be gender, religion, race, etc. Most stereotypical beliefs concerning people of different religions, races, and even nationalities can be faulty and result in discriminatory acts.

Difference Between Stereotyping and Labeling

‘Girls are weak’ is an example for stereotyping

What is Labeling?

Labeling can be understood as the act of attaching a label to an individual or else putting someone in a category. In most instances, labeling can be negative and harmful for the individual. In sociology, labeling is being studied as a theoretical concept in Symbolic Interactionism. It was Howard Becker who introduced the labeling theory in relation to deviance. He believed that, in the day to day interactions with others, people develop labels for others. For example, a person can be labeled as a ‘criminal.’ Once such a label has been created for an individual, this becomes his master status. The individual is unable to go back to his normal lifestyle because of this label. This highlights that labeling can be negative for the individual who has been labeled.

Now, let us comprehend the connection and difference between labeling and stereotyping. Imagine, you see an extremely beautiful girl in school. You label this person as a beauty. Simultaneously, it crosses your mind that she must be proud and arrogant. This is our stereotypic belief or else the generalization that we have.

 Stereotyping  vs Labeling

Labeling someone criminal  affects his life negatively

What is the difference between Stereotyping and Labeling?

• Definitions of Stereotyping and Labeling:

• Stereotyping can be defined as a form of generalization of a group of people or else a simplified outlook.

• Labeling can be defined as a categorization.

• Examples:

• Stereotyping is a simplified outlook to a group of people such as Asians are brainy; girls are weak, etc.

• Labeling is merely a categorization of people such as black, white, gay, straight, nerd, criminal, gangster, etc.

• Connection:

• Usually labeling is followed by stereotypic beliefs that allow us to place an individual under a category.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Phone commercial by Puramyun31 (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Hinged handcuffs via Wikicommons (Public Domain)