Social categorization refers to how an individual groups together people who share significant characteristics. Ones demographic features, which could be age, ethnicity, sex or religion is commonly used to critic a person. Occupation, personality and interests are also usual social categories (Crisp and Hewstone, 2007). The process of social categorization helps a persons understanding of the social world by constructing and arranging his or her perception towards it. This allows one to have meaningful preexisting notions about what a member of a social category is like. The tendency to categorize is typically convenient, compared to starting from scratch in figuring people out. It is easier to identify the group an individual belongs to and categorize them as this will help provide information about their characteristics of the certain social group they belong to (Lee, Jussim, & McCauley, 1995).
However apparently there are hostile views about the question of how important categorization is to a person’s perception (Klapper et al., 2017). The traditional view on categorization is an unavoidable part of a person’s perception –there cannot be person’s perception without it (Allport, 1954). In comparison to other researchers who debated that categorization might be the only one of the many processing strategies that a person can observe and retain, and that an individual can more so rely on categorization only under certain circumstances (Macrae, Bodenhausen, Milne, Thorn, ; Castelli, 1997; Macrae ; Bodenhausen, 2000). In this essay I aim to show that these viewpoints may not be as antagonistic as they might seem and outline the benefits and drawbacks of social categorization while highlighting its effects on social life.
As individuals we categorize unexpectedly, without much thought (Crisp ; Hewstone, 2007). If a person familiar with characteristics of social groups is lost in a city, he or she might look for a taxi driver or a police officer to guide them to their desired destination. As, a taxi driver or police officers are likely to know the layout of the city compared to a pedestrian. In this case, using social categories are helpful for the individual (Lee, Jussim, ; McCauley, 1995) using the stereotypes (or social categories) to mentally picture a person characteristic makes the persons life slightly easier (Macrae, Bodenhausen, Milne, ; Jetten, 1994). With reference to this approach, imagining people in light with their social category is a practical way to deal with our surroundings, in everyday chaos we decrease the complexity by depending on stereotypes. Even though placing people into their social categories makes our day to day lives easier, and assists the person who does the categorizing. However not treating the person as a unique individual with their own distinctive characteristics has a variety of negative outcomes, often relatively unfair for those who are being categorized. This misrepresents our perception and as individuals we are likely to overstate the differences among people from various social groups however at the same time distinguishing people of groups (particularly out-groups) more alike to each other than they actually might be. This overgeneralization makes it more likely for individuals to treat all the members from a particular social group the same way because of their categorization (Hugenberg and Sacco, 2008). In 1963, Tajfel and Wilkes conducted an experiment that could possibly provide the result of categorization. The experiment involved the participants to anticipate the length of six lines that were shown to them. The experiment was conducted under four different conditions. Tajfel discovered that the lines were observed differently when they were categorized to an extent to which the difference among the group and the resemblances between the groups were highlighted. In this experiment the categorization between the groups formed a perceptual bias that the two groups of lines were seen as rather different than they actually were (Tajfel and Wilkes, 1963). This similarly occurs when we categorize people. We perceive the people who belong to the same social group to be more alike than they really are and vice versa.
Researchers use the term categorization to refer to the approach to represent other people, by organizing illustrations rather than an individual’s feature. For example, besides mapping a person onto their features i.e. “tall,” “beard,” and “dominant,” a person may easily map the person as a representation of a “man,” which organizes the other features (Klapper et al., 2017). This system has been adopted by Fiske et al. (1987) and Fiske and Neuberg (1990) in their significant and extensively cited continuum model. They illustrated amongst two types of internal representations: “categories” and “attributes” (Fiske et al., 1987; Fiske & Neuberg, 1990). Mainly they proclaimed, ” the feature attribute that a perceiver uses to organize and understand the remaining feature defines the category …” (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990, p. 9). Hence the category referring to a man is the observed feature of a person that helps best organize the other features of the person stated whereas the remaining features are referred to as attributes. The basis of this is to understand that a person can be represented in terms of either the organizing representation (category) or individual properties (attributes). Fiske and Neuberg (1990) explained that a significant amount of attributes make up a more prominent category compared to just a visible attribute, thus the category label can be said to organize the attributes (Klapper et al., 2017). Fundamentally, categorizations helps one organize their thoughts and even though it may widely be used to segregated social groups or/and identify them, it also helps us identify people according to their “attributes” and segregate them into the group they belong according to the fixed categorizations in our minds.
More recent research has shown how social categorization can affect not just how we perceive and judge others or individuals but how one remembers them as well. As humans we are prosperous in forming and upholding friendships, groups and alliances to achieve our goals. Prominent theories on human intelligence claim that human’s inherently social nature guided the evolution of theory of mind and more commonly the strong abstract thinking capacity (Byrne ; Whiten, 1988). For such processing power to be brought to bear on coalition building however humans must solve the serious problem specifically who is who whilst concurrently focusing and managing to other countless aspects in their atmosphere. For example, the extensive eyewitness identification research examines this very setback remembering who is who. Therefore not only is face recognition an integrally social psychological drawback but also additional purpose that basic social categorization processes show a compelling role in who we identify and how we do it. An example of a Cross-Raced Effect (CRE) in regards to this explanation is, White perceivers typically have more trouble recognizing Black or Asian targets, compared to a White target. However the only key for CRE according to perceptual; expertise modes are extensive exposure to cross-race faces, the Categorization-Individuation Model (CIM) offers a drastically unusual prospective: individuation. Individuation is obviously the opposite of categorization. But when perceivers are conscious of their tendency to think categorically, they are encouraged to ponder on the distinctive characteristics of others and have the available cognitive capacity to do so (Brewer, 1988, Fiske ; Neuberg, 1990), thus they can participate in individuation. To test this theory, Hungenberg, Miller ; Claypool (2007) showed White members a series of White and Black faces and instructed them to concentrate to the faces to facilitate later recognition. Where participants in the controlled condition received no added information concerning the task, participants in the individuation condition were instructed that they were likely to show the CRE and to attend closely to the unique characteristics of cross-race faces in an attempt to eliminate this effect. Hungenberg, Miller ; Claypool (2007) concluded that these individuation instructions were enough to entirely eradicate the CRE, a theory they replicated using different sets of stimuli, multiple times. Individuation instructions abolished the CRE. Thus, it seems that perceivers have enough perceptual expertise to decide between cross-race faces, but in many circumstances, they do not retain this skill. Rodin (1987) suggested that social categorization could lead to cognitive disregard of ‘low-value’ individuals as perceivers are cognitive misers, and are normally reluctant to unnecessarily utilize cognitive resources (Fiske ; Taylor, 1991), most of the individuals may not be processed beyond mere category levels. Thus, once they are motivated unrelated individuals are categorized (e.g., old man, hippie, and cashier), they obtain no additional resources to categories them. Consecutively, Levin’s (1996, 2000) feature-selection model suggests that it is not so much that cross-race individuals take less attention totally. Instead use that attention to assign to distinctive features in same-race and cross-race faces. While attention to same-race faces is paid to the distinctive characteristics of that face that permits for strong subsequent recognition, attentiveness to cross-race faces is in its place allotted to race-specifying features at the expense of individuating information. So, in cross-race faces, perceivers lean to search for characteristics that are collective by members of the category, rather than for characteristics that are exclusive to that individual, leading to real effort in subsequent recognition (Hugenberg and Sacco, 2008). Though there are real variances among these unlike mechanisms, it is believed that long lasting, but a poorly explained phenomena such as the CRE are nearly positively multiply determined. Realistically, all of these processes are likely implicated in many real-world observances of the CRE; though, more research is still needed to explicate each of these possibilities.
Categorization is essential to an individual’s cognition because it helps serve us a basic epistemic function: forming and arranging our knowledge about the world (Bodenhausen, Kang and Peery, 2012). By helping us in identifying the classes of stimuli that share essential properties, categorization allows individuals to take order and logic to the immense array of people, objects, and events that are faced in daily life. After a categorical organization is covered upon them, the immense variety of individual beings that we meet in daily life becomes manageable. With ?the help of categories, the mind converts the world from a hectic complexity into predictable order. Social categories are not distinctive from other?types of notions in their ability to serve these basic knowledge functions. As on the base of demographic features, social roles, kinship, shared tasks, or other social cues, classifying and placing an individual to a specific social category allows an implication about a range of relevant and key concerns (Bodenhausen, Kang and Peery, 2012). Categorizing people varies from categorizing objects in a prominent aspect, when an individual is placed into a social category; one is more likely to deliberate our own status with respect to?that particular category (i.e., as a member or non-member). In cases like these, social categorization permits us to associate with those who share our group memberships (i.e., in-groups) but it is also possible to psychologically instantaneously determine significant dividing?lines between the perceiver and the target (i.e., out-groups). Categorization to an extent leads us to perceive something other than reality but however it mainly helps us ease our mind and social life by compartmenting (i.e. categorizing) things. However social categorization is a widespread topic and has been extensively researched upon by researchers it is however useful but can also be harmful to the society or/and an individual at the same time.