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Professor Steven Pinker

“Politically correct sensibilities may bridle at the suggestion that a group of people, like a variety of fruit, may have features in common, but if they didn’t, there would be no cultural diversity to celebrate and no ethnic qualities to be proud of. Groups of people cohere because they really do share traits, albeit statistically. So a mind that generalizes about people from their category membership is not ipso facto defective. African Americans today really are more likely to be on welfare than whites, Jews really do have higher average incomes than WASPs, and business students really are more politically conservative than students in the arts — on average.

The problem with categorization is that it often goes beyond the statistics. For one thing, when people are pressured, distracted, or in an emotional state, they forget that a category is an approximation and act as if a stereotype applies to every last man, woman, and child. For another, people tend to moralize their categories, assigning praiseworthy traits to their allies and condemnable ones to their enemies. During World War II, for example, Americans thought that Russians had more positive traits than Germans; during the Cold War they thought it was the other way around.”


Pulled from The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker.