Easy categorization

You can notice people tense up when a Nigerian introduces themselves. They view you with suspicion and constantly question your motives. If they can, some people will avoid interacting or doing business with you, and with good reason. 

They’ve either had a bad experience with a Nigerian, or know someone who has. Every other week, there are news reports of a Nigerian who was arrested for money laundering. Thus, one can sympathize with people who hesitate to deal with us. 

These instances will inevitably influence how others perceive Nigerians. For some, counterexamples might even fail to convince them otherwise. People usually feel negative information more intensely than positive information. 

Most stereotypes start this way: with a set of beliefs about a group — beliefs that may be true or false. Although they can be positive, stereotypes are mostly negative. They help us simplify the world by sorting things into categories based on what they have in common. Categorization enables us to make decisions by predicting the behavior of things. It would be overwhelming to treat every person, experience, or object as unique.

We rely more on these categories when we are tired or distracted. We also use them when we have insufficient information about people from a particular group. People are complex and often defy easy categorization. The recent surge in protests and riots across the globe reflects that fact. We have to revise or stop using some of our stereotypes. Being more sensitive to differences is a skill we all need to cultivate.