National Stereotypes in the USA and Russia


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

Russian people find questions like these: «Is that true that bears walk in street?», «Do you really have only harsh winters for the whole year?» find very confusing, because they do not know where American people hear about these facts from.



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ТЕМА: National Stereotypes in the USA and Russia


Russian people find questions like these: «Is that true that bears walk in street?», «Do you really have only harsh winters for the whole year?» find very confusing, because they do not know where American people hear about these facts from. The author also was confused when he was asked that question: «Do all Russian people play the balalaika?»

We did a research to find out what stereotypes are there about the United States of America and Russia, what stereotypes are the most popular.

The aim of the research is to study the term of «stereotype», make our own research on the most popular stereotypes and compare Russian and American stereotypes.

To achieve this aim there are following tasks:

  1.  find out the meaning of the term «Stereotype»;
  2.  figure out the forms of stereotypes;
  3.  learn the origin of stereotype;
  4.  carry out an experiment and find out:

    - what stereotypes are the most popular;

    - what diferrence is between American and                                                                Russian stereotypes.

The object of the research is American and Russian people. The subject of the research is the Russian and American stereotypes.

The hypothesis is the following: it's considered that all Russian and American stereotypes are identical.

To find out what Russian and American stereotypes were the most famous we have done a survey among the author's friends and relatives living in the USA and Russia.They were asked some questions from questionnaire ( See appendix 1) and the results were a little bit puzzling.

What Is a Stereotype?

Definition of a stereotype that is given by Mike Cardwell in 1996 – a stereotype is «…a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. » [A]

For example, a «hells angel» biker dresses in leather.

One advantage of a stereotype is that it enables us to respond rapidly to situations because we may have had a similar experience before.

One disadvantage is that it makes us ignore differences between individuals; therefore we think things about people that might not be true (i.e. make generalizations).

«The use of stereotypes is a major way in which we simplify our social world; since they reduce the amount of processing (i.e. thinking) we have to do when we meet a new person.»[A]

By stereotyping we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group have. Stereotypes lead to social categorization, which is one of the reasons for prejudice attitudes (i.e. “them” and “us” mentality) which leads to in-groups and out-groups.

Most stereotypes probably tend to convey a negative impression.  Positive examples would include judges (the phrase “sober as a judge” would suggest this is a stereotype with a very respectable set of characteristics), overweight people (who are often seen as “jolly”) and television news readers (usually seen as highly dependable, respectable and impartial). Negative stereotypes seem far common, however.

«Stereotypes are qualities assigned to groups of people related to their race, nationality and sexual orientation, to name a few. Because they generalize groups of people in manners that lead to discrimination and ignore the diversity within groups, stereotypes should be avoided.»[B]

«While all stereotypes are generalizations, not all generalizations are stereotypes. Stereotypes are oversimplifications of people groups widely circulated in certain societies. In the United States, for example, racial groups are linked to stereotypes such as being good at math, athletics, dancing and so forth. So well-known are these stereotypes in the U.S. that the average American likely would not hesitate if asked to identify which racial group in this country is known for excelling in basketball. In short, when one stereotypes, one repeats the cultural mythology already present in a particular society.»[B]

On the other hand, a person can make a generalization about an ethnic group that has not been perpetuated in society. Say, for instance, a woman encounters individuals from a particular ethnic group and finds them to be excellent parents. Based on her encounters with these folks, she may oversimplify and conclude that anyone from this ethnic group must be an excellent parent. In this instance, she would be guilty of generalizing, but an observer might think twice about calling her conclusion a stereotype since no group in the U.S. has the distinction of being known as excellent parents.

«To understand what stereotypes are it is useful to consider three principles which guide work on the social psychology of stereotyping. No perspective shares all principles to the same degree, rather different different perspectives sample from each of the principles to greater or lesser degrees.  Nevertheless the three guiding principles we can identify are as follows: (a) stereotypes are aids to explanation, (b) stereotypes are energy-saving devices, and (c) stereotypes are shared group beliefs. The first of these implies that stereotypes should form so as to help the perceiver make sense of a situation, the second implies that stereotypes should form to reduce effort on the part of the perceiver, and the third implies that stereotypes should be formed in line with the accepted views or norms of social groups that the perceiver belongs to. »[E pp.2]

The Origin of Stereotypes

 How did the stereotypes appear? Where do they come from? People have their own stereotypes about gender, race, and religion. These stereotypes come from a lot of sources, such as family, school education and media. In the past, the family or school circumstances had the greatest impact on making certain stereotypes in people’s mind. For example, children get to learn a lot of things when their parents (or grand parents) say something at the dinner table. They understand the society and the world in the way their parents describe them even though some of their statements could be wrong. In other words, the stereotypes of the parents can be the stereotypes of their children possibly.

However, in this modern society, media – especially the Internet – become the most powerful source that influence the people’s stereotypes. People do not get information from their family or school any more. They have the Internet which gives them a vast amount of information needed in the every field of their lives. All they have to do is just type some word and wait for the results on the Internet. It is much easier and faster.

 Of course, it depends on the generation – we can not say all the people use the Internet to get the information because other media such as TV and newspapers are still useful and important sources of getting the information, but it is true that the young people spend much more time on using the internet than the people in the past. It is obvious that the children of this generation will be the huger fans of the Internet.

The one of the biggest difference between the old media and the Internet is the speed and the extent of spreading  the information. Let us say one newspaper published the cartoon that depict the certain race as harmful and dangerous group of people to the world. Some readers of that newspaper might think like that and make certain stereotypes about that race in their mind. In this case, the numbers of the readers of the newspaper is comparatively small, and people get to know that idea very slowly. Then, think about the users of the Internet. If some information wrong start to spread thorough the Internet, no one can stop it because it’s so fast and wide-spread.

 Sociologists believe that mental categorizing (or labelling) is necessary and inescapable. One perspective on how to understand stereotyping process is through the categories or ingroups and outgroups. Ingroups are viewed as normal and superior, and are generally the group that one associates with or aspires to join. An outgroup is simply all the other groups. They are seen as lesser or inferior than the ingroups.

A second perspective is that of automatic and implicit or subconscious and conscious. Automatic or subconscious stereotyping is that which everyone does without noticing. Automatic stereotyping is quickly preceded by an implicit or conscious check which permits time for any needed corrections. Automatic stereotyping is affected by implicit stereotyping because frequent conscious thoughts will quickly develop into subconscious stereotypes.

A third method to categorizing stereotypes is general types and sub-types. Stereotypes consist of hierarchical systems consisting of broad and specific groups being the general types and sub-types respectively. A general type could be defined as a broad stereotype typically known among many people and usually widely accepted, whereas the sub-group would be one of the several groups making up the general group. These would be more specific, and opinions of these groups would vary according to differing perspectives.

Forms of Stereotypes

There are some forms of stereotypes: 1) stereotypes involving age; 2) stereotypes involving the race; 3) stereotypes involving gender; 4) other forms of stereotypes.

  1.  «Stereotypes involving age. Many different forms of stereotypes abound that categorize people by their age. Also called ageism, this practice discriminates against older individuals. Ageism affects individuals in many different areas, but has been prevalent in the workplace, when older employees are not promoted due to beliefs about their abilities because of their age. Individuals can also be outright denied employment due to their age. The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects individuals over the age of 40 from facing ageism in the workplace.»[C]
  2.  «Stereotypes involving the race. Racial stereotyping is another form of grouping that affects many different people. The practice of classifying individuals based on race creates negative ideals about those people without truly understanding their culture. For example, due to some forms of media coverage and a misunderstanding of the culture, many individuals have begun to stereotype people of Middle Eastern descent. Due to an increasing rate of violent terrorist activities by those of Middle Eastern decent, who do not understand that culture may incorrectly group all Middle Easterners as terrorists.»[C]
  3.  «Stereotypes involving gender. Stereotyping can also affect gender lines. This type of stereotyping can affect people in the workplace and various other locations. For example, individuals may believe that women would not fit well into job types such as police officers or soldiers. Gender stereotypes are also created through the media and popular forms of entertainment. For example, individuals may believe that women would not fit well into job types such as police officers or soldiers. Gender stereotypes are also created through the media and popular forms of entertainment. For example, women have often struggled with the size and shape expectations created by various shows and magazines, something that is led to various problems for women who try to match those hard-to-reach images.»[C]
  4.  «Other forms of stereotypes affect a number of other people. Some individuals are stereotyped by the area in which they were raised. For example, people who come from low income urban areas may be characterized in a negative fashion, influencing how others deal with them. Individuals can also be stereotyped by their career. Research has shown that sports fans categorize many athletes in the National Basketball Association based on negative stereotypes created by a few bad apples.»[C]

The Role of Stereotypes

«The word «stereotype» is today almost always a term of abuse. This stems from the wholly justified objections of various groups - in recent years, blacks, women and gays, in particular - to the ways in which they find themselves stereotyped in the mass media and in everyday speech. Yet when Walter Lippmann coined the term, he did not intend it to have a wholly and necessarily pejorative connotation. Taking a certain ironic distance on his subject, Lippmann none the less lays out very clearly both the absolute necessity for, and the usefulness of, stereotypes, as well as their limitations and ideological implications:

A pattern of stereotypes is nor neффutral. It is not merely a way of substituting order for the great blooming, buzzing confusion of reality. It is not merely a short cut. It is all these things and something more. It is the guarantee of our self-respect; it is the projection upon the world of our own sense of our own value, our own position and our own rights. The stereotypes are, therefore, highly charged with the feelings that are attached to them. They are the fortress of our tradition, and behind its defenses we can continue to feel ourselves safe in the position we occupy. (1956: 96)»[F pp.1]

We can begin to understand something of how stereotypes work by following up the ideas raised by Lippmann - in particular his stress on stereotypes as an ordering process, a «short cut», referring to «the world», and expressing «our» values and beliefs. The rest of this essay is structured around these topics, concluded with some tentative remarks on the relevance of what has gone before [in Dyer, 1993] to the representation of alcoholism. Throughout, I move between the more sociological concern of Lippmann (how stereotypes function in social thought) and the specific aesthetic concerns (how stereotypes function in fictions) that must also be introduced into any consideration of media representations. The position behind all these considerations is that it is not stereotypes, as an aspect of human thought and representation, that are wrong, but who controls and defines them, what interests they serve.

Comparison of Russian and American Stereotypes

It’s a well-known fact that all countries have their own stereotypes about other countries. It is believed that american and russian stereotypes are identical so the survey was done to prove that fact or to refute it. People from the USA and Russia told the most popular stereotypes about each other.

Firstly, 5 the most popular russian stereotypes about America:

  1.  All Americans are stupid;
  2.  All Americans are fat and lazy and love McDonalds;
  3.  All Americans are fanatically patriotic;
  4.  All Americans are rich;
  5.  All Americans believe that nothing exists outside of USA.

Secondly, 5 the most well-known american stereotypes about Russia:

  1.  All Russians drink vodka and love it;
  2.  All Russians love playing balalaika;
  3.  There are lots of bears everywhere in Russia;
  4.  Russians do not know any season except winter;
  5.  All Russians are stony-faced and they never smile.

The task of the research was to find out what stereotypes are the most well-known among author's russian and american people and to compare russian and american stereotypes and to find out whether these stereotypes are true The results of the survey were not shocking.

100 people living in the USA were asked some questions about Russsia and the same task was made with Russians.( See appendix 1) 45 Americans told that all Russians love their vodka and drink it almost always, 20 Americans told that Russians are stony-faced, 11 people think that there are bears almost everywhere in Russia and 10 people believe that many Russians live with their parents even when they become adults. 7 % of Americans suppose that all Russians play balalaika and 5 people told that there are only winters in Russia. 2 Americans are sure that all cops corrupt.

Also, 100 Russians were asked the same questions as Americans and it was found out that 40 Russians think all Americans are fat and lazy. 18 Russians told that Americans are stupid and uneducated. 12 people are sure that Americans are addicted to plastic and another 12 people think that Americans always stick their noses where they do not belong at all. 8 % of Russians believe that Americans are violent and 7 % say that Americans are arrogant and selfish. 3 people insist on the fact that Americans are destroying the planet.

The russian answers about the USA were showed Americans and they told that almost half of answers are false and the same was told by Russians so that it can be said that the stereotypes do not give the description of real sityuations in Russia and the USA.

The next task was to compare stereotypes. On the base of questions that were asked earlier it can be said that stereotypes are in different areas and the hypothesis was not proved: russian and american stereotypes are not identical.



«Nationality Stereotypes are generalizations about different countries that are often used as a form of flaming. These can be considered as racism and are often spread after a certain event or time that occurred in a certain nation or region. If the event or time can easily be mocked, then stereotypes are sure to spread. These stereotypes have a large presence on the internet, not just in real life. »[G]

Summirising up all what was told, the following conclusions:

  1.  All stereotypes: both Russian and American are not identical as Americans and Russians think different about each other;
  2.  National stereotypes do not tell the truth about the nation, however, there are based on some occasions that are associated with the nation.

All tasks that were given were solved and the aim of the research - to study the term of stereotypes, make our own research on the most popular stereotypes and compare Russian and American stereotypes was achieved.

In conclusion it should be pointed out that stereotypes should not be understood as the truth about the nation as all nations have changed seriously since the stereotypes about them were imagined.

This research was great way to know more about the USA and to learn what Americans think about Russians, to find out what Russians think about Americans nowadays. While researching for the stereotypes it was necessary to consult the available dictionaries and the Internet as one of the task was to give a definition of a stereotype.


  1.  Stereotypes. Simply Psychology // http://www.simplypsychology.org/katz-braly.html
  2.  What is a stereotype? About.com Race Relations // http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/a/WhatIsaStereotype.htm
  3.  Garsia R. eHow contributor. Forms of stereotyping. eHow // http://www.ehow.com/info_8416896_forms-stereotyping.html
  4.  Where do stereotypes come from? Stereotype in the Media.


  1.  McGarty C. Stereotypes as Explanations. Cambridge University Press, 2002. Cambridge, UK. 242 pages.
  2.  Dyer R. The Role of Stereotypes. Edinburgh University Press, 1999. 6 pages.
  3.  Nationality Stereotypes. National Stereotypes. // http://www.nationalstereotype.com/nationality-stereotypes/


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