How Stereotypes Affect Our Subliminal Perception



Recently I came across a small trove of research that when looked at together as a whole, shows how stereotypes affect our subliminal perception.  The more I thought about these concepts, the more intrigued I became.  Is society being duped by propaganda campaigns that create stereotypes to direct our basic behaviors?

Is there a conspiracy to control the masses?

First, Some Definitions

Before I start putting all of this together I feel that it is important to review some definitions of the key words at play here:  Stereotypes, Subliminal and Perception.  The below definitions are thanks to

Stereotypes Definition:


Subliminal Definition:


Perception Definition:


Now that we have our vocabulary refreshed a little bit, let me tie this all together for you.

A Good Book and an Interesting Perspective

Article: Book Review – Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I recently completed reading a book, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and found a lot of great material in it.  The book generally was about our gut feelings or accurate judgements in a blink of an eye.  As the he went over all different kinds of research to support all of this I began to notice another way that this could all be tied together.

Through many different types of experiments by various resources, Malcolm was able to piece together the how’s and why’s when it came to these snap judgements. At the same point, I began to see how this could very easily be a tool being used to control the masses.

If you want the nitty gritty details of how it all works I suggest you get and read the book, but from a top view it is pretty cut and dry.  Whether we realize it or not, stereotypes affect our actions and behaviors basically on a subliminal level.  Research showed that subjects could be primed to react to information in certain ways just by the way that we perceive a group of people.

With that in mind, all a controlling force would need to do is to set our perceptions of groups of people to the way that they see fit.  Once that is done, all they have to do is continually reinforce that stereotype throughout our media and entertainment and they will ever so gently push us in the direction they want.

You Don’t Have to Look Far

Our music, videos, movies, social media and so much more all play a role with “reinforcement” of stereotypes.

After I reached adulthood, I started paying a little bit more attention to the political scene here in America when the first presidential election came rolling around.  While I was never really big into the political scene, I would go out and vote for the next president.

After a few times of this occurring I started to realize that things were not getting solved from election to election.  It was almost always the same old topics over and over again.  Sometimes different ones would take center stage, but they were all there like a group of old friends.  This bothered me for many years, but until now I didn’t quite realize just why that it did.

Now I can see that each of these so called topics pretty much dealt with various groups of people or stereotypes.  With my eyes now open, I was also able to see these same underlying themes throughout our society as well as all around in daily life.  The pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place, racism, sexism, gun rights, abortion rights, terrorism and so forth.

It is not just the politics though that has been submersed in this game.  The Entertainment and Media Industries are ripe with stereotype reinforcements every day and I am sure there are many others out there that we could rope in as well, but I think you get the point now.

It Builds and Feeds on Itself

Even though I loved Smittens, I sometimes still felt anxiety around her.

Once this process is started it is so easy for it to build and feed on itself.  Once the stereotype is established our behaviors shift ever so slightly by what we have been led to believe.  With that the ball is then rolling and slowly but surely picks up steam with each action and each time it is reinforced to us.

One example that I would like to share with you that was a part of my life is when it came to dogs.  I have had a dog pretty much my whole life and always loved all of the various breeds.  However, at one point Pit Bulls became the victim of stereotyping and were portrayed in a very negative light.

After we moved into our first house we met the neighbors and their dog Smittens, who was a lovely Pit Bull.  Even though She was the nicest dog you would ever meet and I loved her a lot, I could still feel nervous around her just because of her breed.  With my hindsight now what it is, I can understand much better now why I felt the way I did around her as it was what I was programmed to feel.

Effectively, by using stereotypes, they are creating a vicious cycle for us to get on and roll through life.  It is such a subtle and effective technique while also being so simple and hidden in plain sight.  Those qualities alone make for a dangerous combination, but…

Not All Hope is Lost

Part of being mindful is to THINK before you speak.

While this can be a very scary thought, there is something that you can do about it.  The key term to defend yourself against falling victim to the above cycle is to learn how to be mindful in life.  In Blink, Malcolm was able to show several examples of people who were able to jump off the hamster wheel and control their own paths much better.

One thing that all of these people had was a mindset where they were patient and understanding of the situation on a larger scale.  These are the traits of mindfulness and are what will lead you as well to making the right decisions over a preprogrammed one.

The one example shared in the book is about a car salesman that was very successful as he was able to separate himself from allowing stereotypes to affect his sales process.  While most salesmen unconsciously fell victim to the process, he was able to be mindful about his actions and proceed down a much more positive path.

Whether there is a conspiracy to control us all or not, this is still very valuable information to learn and understand.  If our goal is to make the world a better place, we have to be able to take control of ourselves and our actions.  From there, we can move forward in a much more positive fashion.

A Path Forward

So now we know that the path forward is one where we are more mindful about our approach to life, but where do we start?  There are many different resources available, this site being one of them!  I have a few recommendations that I would like to share with you to help you on your journey to a better life.

Course – Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation: Learn what mindfulness meditation is, how to do mindfulness meditation, and experience four guided meditations

Here are several other articles or reviews that I have written that would be very helpful in helping you to understand the process of using mindfulness in your life.  I would highly recommend both books I have listed, as I really think they have helped myself to shape and hone in on my skills.

Let’s Discuss…

Lastly, I would like to ask for your thoughts and feedback on this article.  Is this something that you have seen in your life, do you have a story to share?  Do you think maybe this is all a bunch of junk? Just have questions? Regardless, I would love to hear from and discuss it with you.  In the end, it all helps us to grow and prosper with healthy discussion.

Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you back in the future!

James W D

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7 Replies to “How Stereotypes Affect Our Subliminal Perception”

  1. Hello James
    What an interesting post.
    I love the THINK before you speak.
    Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did this, every now and then at the least.

    • THINK before you speak is a game changer for our society. If we can keep working that mentality in more and more we will definitely see a much more positive effect. Just like throwing a pebble into a pond, THINKing will ripple out across the surface spreading it’s positive vibes.

  2. Brilliant, James! This is truly something that has been bothering me for quite some time, but just couldn’t put a finger on it. We have become a society of cattle being herded in whatever direction our “masters” desire. It only takes a few of us to step up and point out these things to initiate change in the world!
    I especially love the Pit bull reference…that is definitely a perfect and obvious example of how stereotyping affects our behavior! My son has a Pit bull and finds himself having defend the breed almost on a daily basis…especially, now, that he has a baby in the same house! oh my!
    thanks for opening eyes!

    • It has been bothering me for quite a while as well and I feel like I am finally seeing a lot more of the bigger picture now. With the turn of every page in that book I got more and more intrigued with just how our minds work on our most basic of actions. To learn just how much they can easily be influenced was a bit of a shock.

      Our neighbors pit bull actually had the top of her ear bitten off by one of her kids when he was little and the dog just laid there throughout the process and never even reacted. That just shows how much Smittens loved her family. She was a great dog and I am very thankful for the years that I got to be her neighbor.

  3. Well of course this is something that we have all seen in life! We have only to look at ourselves – we all use stereotypes in our every day lives often without knowing it. We have a biased view of life situations based on a limited perspective of what we can see before us, what we read about and what we hear around us.

    • very true James, though I was personally surprised at the subtleness of it all. When you read through all of the various experiments that were done, it is just amazing to see the results. For one example they looked at racism and even people of the ethnicity reacted in a racially biased way without even knowing it. In the end, it makes it all the more important to be mindful of our actions and words.

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