Posts tagged 06/06/2011
But I Must Have Some Bias

My bias, I admit, is to be really disappointed in the nature and the process of international contact and stereotyping.  To understand why I want to discuss clichés that get thrown back and forth across the Pond, I’ll have to start with my own development on that score.  I can admit my own faults here. 

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The Problem with Concepts, Part I

The problem with stereotypes and clichés has to do with the problem of building and using concepts.  Concepts are people's beliefs about the features that make up a category of things (like, "cheese"), where those features come from ("cheese has calcium because it is made from milk), how frequently a given feature is present across category members ("calcuim is a feature of all cheese" whereas "having holes" is not), and the way to use those features to interact with category members ("bleu cheese makes a good sauce").  People have to have concepts or they would be in the process of relearning how to do the same things all of the time.  Once we have learned the concept of “cups” we know where these things are stored, how to handle them, and what kinds of liquids go into them.  The concept of cup is very useful.   When we want to serve coffee, we do not have to ask around to figure out what to put it in.  Same thing with billions of other concepts, from the concept of “hair brush” to “salad” and “rototiller.”  We know what a lot of things are, we know names for them, and how to use them.  So life seems pretty fluid, where it would not otherwise.

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False Advertising About Places

A couple of years ago I met a lovely couple, a German married to a Brazilian, who live in Minneapolis, MN (USA).  After basically doing their schooling and making their life in the Twin Cities, they had moved to the south of France for a while.  Three years in the south of France was enough for them, and they moved back to MN.  I wondered out loud with them how that went over with their friends in France.  I asked, “How did you explain that you were moving from Montpellier to Minneapolis?”  It was easy, they replied, “We just said that we were going home.”  I was impressed. 

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