Sweeping generalisations: the flaw on GaG

Hello, I’m pretty new to GaG, it seems like a really good way of getting questions answered and helping other people out. I think it’s a great example of how to use the internet to make yourself feel better and realise you aren’t alone, in fact everyone out there has the same or similar problems to you.

However I have found that one thing since I arrived here has been bothering me more and more and it is this: DEAR GOD DO A LOT OF YOU LOVE TO GENERALIZE! I mean don’t get me wrong that isn’t to say that there aren’t general trends in people’s behaviour and preferences but can we all just stop it with the cut and dry? (I'm done being angry now, I'm going to give a slightly more reasonable argument from now on)

Let me take the example of the first myTake that came up when I opened the page: Women aren't really attracted to good looks, personality, or money, but rather the confidence associated with them. Ok so don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is true but let us not forget that sometimes it also isn’t. You need to be careful when you put 100% certain statements like that because I definitely know girls who value looks over confidence. I personally thought this article was excellent but I just wish it was made clear that you can’t generalise all girls’ preferences in one sweeping statement.

Another pretty awful one that comes up is What Girls look for in Guys. This is wrong for exactly the same reasons, girls don’t just look for one type of person, or we’d all be competing for one guy. In reality girls love a lot of things about guys and there is no wrong or right way to be. You just need to keep your head up, be yourself and keep looking for that girl who likes the unique combination of characteristics that make you who you are. Reading these articles won’t help you find out exactly what every single girl is looking for. It may however help you find out what the most commonly desired traits are but that really is no ultimatum to live you life by.

When you generalise you have already built a flaw into your argument because you can never ever ever say “all men” or “all women”. There will always be one person who can prove you wrong. It is also very misleading and can lead to the construction of stereotypes that just aren’t true. Many stereotypes that piss off both genders come from people saying all women and all men. For example: all men only think about sex 24/7 is completely wrong because if Einstein was only thinking about sex theoretical physics would be way behind where it is now, and all feminists are man haters is also a load of rubbish because feminists come in a wide spectrum of views not just one unified opinion, the only thing that truly binds them is that they don't think the current status quo is fair. These stereotypes can be harmful and also when you assume things about a person and that assumption turns out to be wrong you can ruin friendships and relationships before they even start.

Sweeping generalisations: the flaw on GaG.

The stereotype that americans view the world this way does not apply to all americans and the stereotypes in this map don't apply to all of the people who live in that region. Embrace diversity guys, stop categorising!

And this really brings me to my main point. There are people of all different types on GaG, I’m prepared to bet that we have a lot of underage kids on here, I also think we have some very clever people on here who think it’s funny to quote rubbish they know is wrong, there are also less clever people on here who take what others say at face value. When you generalise you’re confusing people (less mentally endowed than yourself) with ideas and stereotypes which can go on to have negative effects on their real lives.

So can we use GaG for what it’s meant to be used for, for answering questions and giving opinions but all the while bear in mind that we need to keep things realistic? Allow for people who don’t fit in to your predefined categories and accept for once and for all that it isn’t “all men” and “all women” it is “some men” and “some women”. Can we change our wording from ‘all’ to ‘some’ or ‘most’, can we change ‘everytime’ to ‘sometimes’ and can we remember to say ‘in my experience’ or ‘as far as I’m aware’ before delivering a crushing generalisation which let’s be honest, even the writer know is untrue.

I’m enjoying my time on GaG, I’m just hoping to contribute in some way to people giving more accurate advice which allows for differences in opinions and preferences :) Have a lovely day everyone.

Disclaimer: For the sake of not generalising may I make it abundantly clear that this article does not refer to ALL GaGers, only SOME.


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Most Helpful Guy

  • I totally agree. Many people just bang out questions in a few seconds with scant details and huge sweeping generalisations, and then wonder why other folks misinterpret what they've said.

    Some of my favourites generalisations here are:
    -All English (not British) women are like Emma fucking Watson
    -All Americans are fat, gun-crazed ignorant warmongers
    -Nobody likes black girls
    -Because they all ratchet
    -You have to either like big butts or big boobs. Not both, and not neither
    -All Indian guys are weird, creepy deviants
    -All English (not British!) people are highly educated, rich and well spoken
    -All men are cheaters just waiting to happen

    etc etc etc

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Most Helpful Girl

  • Great take.

    I'm not big on generalizations myself.
    It can be quite offensive when someone concludes "all" is a certain way.

    However some people here are too big on being politically correct and missing the point by far.
    Some people don't word themselves correctly but it's clear to see that they don't mean all. They are just speaking about these experiences has if it's true because it is based on their experience.

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What Guys Said 23

  • You make a lot of good points. People generalize because it helps us make sense of complex phenomena in the world. If we didn't generalize we would never understand anything that's not simple because there would always be more exceptions to the rule than we could count. If you've ever taken an average of a dataset or fit a trendline through a scatter plot you've just generalized something. So generalizations are necessary for our understanding of the world.

    That being said, it's certainly possible to take something that happens infrequently and act like it happens all the time, which is what you're describing. That's just being dishonest and skews reality. People do that because they're so wrapped up in their own biases that they distort reality to make themselves feel better.

    So ya, when you know how to generalize impartially and know the limits of your generalizations then it can be a very effective tool for understanding complex phenomena (e. g. people, the environment, economics, etc.), but if you don't then it makes you look uneducated and bitter.

    Ironically, saying that generalizations are bad and that people shouldn't make them is itself a generalization.

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    • Haha yes I made that mistake of generalising that they are bad, I agree with you I don't think all generalisations are bad, I just think people should be more careful. Like you said they help make sense of the world, as a scientist myself I use them all the time. That being said in science an average can be useful but I think when it comes to dealing with people averages can often limit you more than help you understand how we work. People are all different and diverse and although as I said in my myTake you can take the average of the most desirable traits in a man to make them attractive to women, it can't guarantee you success and is not worth getting too hooked up on. I shouldn't generalize though, sometimes they are very useful, I just think it's important to specify that a generalization is being made when someone is making a sweeping statement so as not to give the wrong impression.

    • Apologies for my appalling phrasing of that comment, I promise my grammar can be better than that ! Having reread what I wrote I think I'm a bit sleepy... Let me know if you need any of that clarifying :)

  • i agree with you not only for this site but for the world a lot of it but not all there are still open minded people out there such as i life is short be the light shinning bright in the dark thats what i say its all so amazing frightening awesome and lame nice and mean powerfull and weak everything in between its ugly and beautifull its insensitive and passionate its pure and impure love hate life death pain pleasure hot cold warm it is substance it is exsistence thats the meaning of life so like youve said PEOPLE WHY DO YOU WASTE TIME GENERALIZING LIFE IS A COMBINATION! Thank you DTFgirl!

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  • Discussions of life and the universe would be so dull and pointless without generalization. The abstract intellect naturally scans the external world for patterns, seeking to render order and logic from the apparent chaos of our surroundings. The pinnacle of science is the sweeping generalization applicable to all cases, the Holy Grail of physics--the Grand Unified Theory. Will we ever find a Unified Theory of People? Probably not, but the abstract intellect will not cease looking for one just as long as people walk this Earth.

    Generalize on, my GAG brothers!

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    • Thanks HikerDude, I agree generalizations are useful for a lot of things. And that the search for patterns is essential for human nature (in fact weirdly enough I wrote an essay on that for philosophy class at high school). My gripe was when they are stated as an absolute rather than it being made clear that they actually only represent an average. :)

      PS. As a chemist I can tell you that when carrying out research the worst thing you can do is make a generalisation too soon or without all the evidence. You're just asking for an academic misconduct meeting with the dean... Not to say that we don't work with generalisations, it's just that you have to be incredibly meticulous and careful with them!

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    • Yeah it was a bugger of a question... thanks for your ideas :)

    • ... has involved investigation into continuous phenomena. The wonders of differential equations mesmerized people into believing that nature was continuous at its heart, but that's not the case. Quantum states, as we now know, are discrete, and in reality, I see discrete phenomena everywhere. I'm a big believer in Balon's theory on saltatory development, which states, in essence, that the development of vertebrates from birth is no gradual and continuous, but rather proceeds by periods of relative stasis punctuated by periods of rapid change, "rushes," if you will. I see these sorts of threshold effects throughout nature. Many of the environmental effects we see are very discrete in nature. 10 ppm of a pollutant in a water body might only cause a small observable effect on a fish population, while 12 ppm causes 50% mortality.

  • It's a good take

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  • This is a good take, well done, its good to see someone giving a fair point, which is making a down-to-earth statement about GaG. Nice one!

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  • Generalizations are fun in comedy. But not when it comes to giving real world advice. Generalizations are fueled by assumptions and gossip from other people. I agree with this article.

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  • I think people see South Africa and think "rape" not "racists."

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    • I have no idea sorry, I didn't make the picture, I was lazy and just picked one of the first things on google images :)

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    • Nasty, I would say I'll avoid going on holiday there but that would mean one day having the money to go on holiday and that isn't happening any time soon, student debt woes :P Also it probably depends on the part of South Africa, I should read up on it more... Thanks :)

    • There was a famous case there a few years ago... a white British couple on holiday was carjacked by native black Africans, robbed, the woman was gang raped for hours as the carjackers drove around and invited friends to rape her, and then tested positive for HIV.

      www.dailymail.co.uk/.../...s-fear-rape-ordeal.html

  • but... generalizations are so easy, they save thousands of words of disclaimers that you would otherwise need to voice.

    How about we just all recognize that generalizations have their place and try not to get to worked up by the use of them?

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  • Love the map it's hilarious.
    Too bad you deactivated

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  • because humans aren't all smart.

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  • I don't agree with that... But it's funny...

    What does it say over Germany?

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  • humans are dim...

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  • What else is new? Lol

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  • This should be required reading on GaG before one can post or ask questions.

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  • but in order for this to work you have to make a sweeping generalization of human nature

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  • Generalizing isn't that bad, you are just too obsessed with the "individual" culture that is so cool now, you have gotten sucked into a stream of thought that is very characteristic of the west. In Japan for instance generalizing isn't considered bad, unless its offensive generalizations. So if you say "Japanese people like seafood" they would agree and not get mad at you because its true. You see their society isn't built on individualism, its built on being a productive member society. This individualism stuff is crap, no one really cares about other peoples sh*tty opinions, or how "unique" they try to make themselves. I dont freaking care how "unique" they think they are, all this does is make a lot of very weird people trying to stand out from the crowd. Why are they trying to stand out? To defeat the dreaded "generalization" that everyone acts a certain way, they want to be able to say "Well I am this and I dont do that" because they think they are an individual. But this is all a pile of garbage, they are actually just conforming to the crowd by trying to be an individual, after all thats what all the cool people are doing now a days. Generalizations aren't bad unless you have been brainwashed into thinking that YOU HAVE TO BE AN INDIVIDUAL, you dont have to be, thats just the brainwashing that goes on in America today.

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    • That was not my point at all. I think you missed the whole thing. I was saying it was bad to generalize when giving advice about people because no two people are identical and some less intelligent GaGers might take it a bit too seriously. I was not saying everyone had to be unique and special. Just that you can't say that "everyone is a certain way" unless you are 100% sure it is definitely "everyone" and not just most people.

  • that is... actually really accurate. but don't forget japan and anime/gaming.

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  • Nah I will use it to instigate the apocalypse and when all the apes are dead we will reign supreme. *lizardmen

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  • I actually kind of agree with that map.

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  • Lol. For me that map is entirely true accept for South America. In my brain South America is pretty much just Brazil and different variations on Brazil. So it's more like rain forest, hot women, and dancing. But on to my real point. I think too many people come on gag with the assumption that this is a place for getting your questions answered by well informed people. It's not. It's more like walking up to a lunch room and sitting down with a group of randoms to ask questions and listening to the bullcrap they come up with. Sometimes it's good helpful bull but often times your asking people questions out of their realm of expertise. Generalizations are what happen when people create ideas with little to no information to build an idea upon. They're flimsy and often at least a little incorrect. But this isn't a site for experts it's a site for the clueless to ask the hopefully slightly less clueless questions because we don't really know where else to go.

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What Girls Said 7

  • Hi, welcome to GaG. :) I like your take. You made some good points. There are a lot of questions who make these generalizations, and when they are debunked, they get mad because their viewpoint wasn't entirely true. Some people use blatant ad hominem to do this as well. It's not cool. These generalizations need to go.

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  • Thank you. Round of applause, standing ovation. I have been waiting for this myTake since I joined! I've drafted a couple similar to this but I simly couldn't do it without ranting.
    Perfect, I love it!

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    • Thank you, I get where you are coming from :) I wrote this on my 3rd day on GaG

  • "You really like to generalize!"

    Something about a pot and a kettle comes to mind. Just now I saw you assuming that guys don't know what it's like to be raped. Nice hypocrisy.

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  • People can't get laid here so hence the mofo complaining 24.7

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  • Average GAG user IQ: 73

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  • Awesome myTake & that pic is hilariously accurate :)
    ~We think in generalities, but we live in detail. Alfred North Whitehead~

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  • Makes a mytake complaining about stereotypes, gladly post a picture of a map stereotyping Americans: but I'm not surprised at the irony you are British after all. I like how you targeted Americans and not your own stereotypes

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    • Hi did you read my disclaimer and the comment I wrote under the picture of the map?

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    • Yes although I don't buy into that stereotype. I think america has it's flaws and merits just like the UK :)

    • Did you read the comment I wrote under the map? Please say you did :)

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