Stereotypes (II): heuristics as a mental shortcut from a psychological perspective.

Versión Castella del Artículo: Estereotipos (II): Heurística como atajo mental desde la perspectiva psicológica.

– We thought there was bacon and there were no bags to hang it on. What am I saying to you? –

My grandmother María Teresa and her «koen».

The intention of this entry is only to bring closer the psychological perspective of the Stereotype. In the article: «Why men do not listen and women do not understand the maps«, we focus on those explanations that neuroscience, biology, psychology, among others, offer us regarding «Curiosities» that attend to this stereotypical nature. Trying to go far, It is well appreciated that the knowledge regarding what a stereotype is can be very interesting to us.

Attending the psychological perspective, is nothing but appreciating why we let ourselves be carried away by a preconceived idea. In this sense, a stereotype is a mental shortcut to active mental processes; in such a way that it resorts to saving thought, that is why we «let ourselves go«.

This mental shortcut is nothing but a heuristic, as that term is conceived in psychology. However, following this assessment, it is necessary to pause to define in a general way the concept of «Heuristics» in order to achieve a better understanding of the pesicological perspective in this regard. Specifically, its definition addresses the terms «find» and «discover«. However, we can appreciate two assimilated meanings, although different, considering their gramatical function: a noun or an adjective.

In this way, heuristics as a noun refers to those sciences, arts or disciplines of discovery; consequently, aimed at the application of a scientific method.

After abstracting the intention of the noun for the term heuristics, it then allows us to differentiate its concept from that which makes it possible to accept it as an adjective. In this sense, «heuristics» is understood as those procedures, strategies, outlines, syllogisms, laws or conclusions about the knowledge that is intended to be found or discovered of anything.

Having reached the knowledge of what heuristics is, let us proceed to delimit it in the field of psychology. Thus, heuristics in psychology are related to creativity, specifically, it has been postulated to consider it as «that simple and efficient rule to guide decision-making and to explain on a practical level how people arrive at a trial or solve a problem» .

Why consider a heuristic as a mental shortcut? A usual human behavior is to save or reserve mental resources when we are presented with a complex problem or we assimilate links of missing information; we appreciate incomplete information. So, a heuristic can be thought of as a shortcut to active mental processes.

Frequently, a heuristic comes from a reasoning by analogy, in itself implies that the learning that it entails and that is opposed within an assimilated context has been significant, since it makes it possible to integrate it within related, although different contextualizations.

It rests, however, on a clear schematic mental representation. Trying to represent such schematization through maps and / or schematizations enables us to underline as significant the knowledge we have of something. This comes to be the postulate of Gowin, who has come to develop heuristic techniques for reasoning, such as that of «V», as well as has promoted the use of mind maps.

However, resorting to reasoning by analogy can lead to systematic errors in decision making or the development of judgments. Why? Because that anchored learning that we have about something and that we resort to to establish analogies or judgments is wrong. Then, we will repeat it forever as long as it is not corrected.

All in all, this observation is somewhat controversial for the discovery by discovery of things that claim very different disciplines, especially in an educational context. It should not be forgotten that each new knowledge that is transmitted focuses on the intention of seeking significant learning and, precisely, the use of heuristics (strategies, schematizations, laws, reasoning, processes) is what enables the development of lateral thinking, amen to promote the development of language skills and mathematical reasoning. That is to say, our creativity, our abstract thinking emerges, it helps us to establish analogies and to be able to reconstruct learning in a schematic way and for different contexts; which is based on meaningful learning.

In fact, according to the national and autonomous curricula of «ESO» and «Baccalaureate» in Spain, the use of heuristics is an «obligation» as this is how their literature approaches us.

Now, abstracting the knowledge that psychology provides us with respect to heuristics, we are going to contemplate it from the stereotype standard that it brings us closer.

In this sense, when we judge an individual based on a stereotypical description of a group to which he belongs, we attend to a pre-established judgment. It happens that the use of the stereotype can result in an error since the individual may be unrepresentative of the stereotype.

What could we say? If statistics are available regarding stereotypes, these stereotypes may be valid and correct, which does not mean that the heuristics are not perfect. Unfortunately, we hardly have statistics regarding stereotypes; All in all, the book that Allan and Barbara Pease bring us closer manages to clarify, from the «heuristic» method, statistical realities that give us different areas of knowledge about very different stereotypes. Another reason why it is considered very interesting to read.

However, going back to the stereotype and its statistics validated in a natural and social way, we consider the error. It is very likely that when generating stereotypes, from the appreciation of a specific phenomenon, we will have possible specific errors. The important thing, in this sense, is that we have managed to categorize a specific phenomenon as a stereotype as long as the errors in its observation are more than compensated for by the frequency of the hit, the latter being considerably higher.

Likewise, many stereotypes are obtained from saving mental resources in order to accelerate decision-making; not based, therefore, on reasoning or solid knowledge. What is the problem they present? Especially ethical and moral, it is critical to obey stereotypes when they can jeopardize the physical, mental or economic integrity of the individual at stake. Have you realized how unhealthy it can be to stereotype someone or something without knowledge, and just because yes, because deep down you are bothered by that «superiority» or «advantage» that you appreciate in another person, physical or legal, and what does not stand? Because let’s not forget, companies (legal personality) are also stereotyped. And things too.

Right now I am remembering Bogas Shop, a multi-service store and bazaar on Avenida del Paseo Marítimo in Adra, the city where I live. It is a spectacular store, beautiful, one of the few well decorated and organized that the municipality has. Also, it is huge, like the Pampa. It is easy to appreciate that posh touch in things that we all like, simply because it is assimilated perfectly: «The senses delight in those things that present the perfect proportions» (Saint Thomas Aquinas).

Still, it popped into my head the last time I went for tobacco, stocks were running low. Is it possible that some person with malice has made an effort to slow down or deny the authorization for the sale of tobacco in this place because «as it is so posh and so large it will not need it»? Or was it simply the result of By chance, suddenly, after years dispensing tobacco, it has now been considered your … disability for this purpose? The truth is that I do not know it, the manager did not know with certainty what was the cause of this new problem, but he had to face it. And that he did, deplete his stock.

In particular, it is a store that, thanks to the sale of tobacco that it has been doing since its inception, for example, can use some other thing that is needed. Possibly we are talking about impulse products, but who doesn’t like to have a cold beer and some fries, or some jelly beans, when he comes tired of the task and has gone, at first, for cigarettes? This land is very «country» and, also, «marine«, that this well-known impulse is among all of us. Or, at least, as a hoteliers’ daughter and granddaughter is something that I can assure from my knowledge. Of course, in this case the hotel business is the opposite: to come for the impulse to the beer, you also want the cigarette to accompany. Thus, this last stereotype, that of making the store look «so posh that it does not need to sell«, of presenting itself as a trigger (we are speaking from the hypothesis) … don’t you think that you are putting at stake the economic capacity of the store and its workers? Ask yourself: is there a store that you set up not to sell? Do you plant your seeds so that they don’t grow? Do you eat and then throw everything away?

Personally, I hope that the Adra City Council will review this situation with this store or lend you a hand and help you, if it is in your capacity and power; that there are many people to whom it comes divinely that Bogas Shop also dispenses tobacco, among other things.

In my specific case, I met her using her service to collect messaging packages on behalf of third parties. A service that many are unaware of and can be very useful, especially if you are concerned about not being able to leave the house if you expect a delivery or are simply working. However, going for tobacco is how I found out about this current problem. I hope that everything goes well for these neighbors and that this setback, that worries them so much, has disappeared.

Speaking of stereotypes, Spain has been categorized as «the country of envy«. Imagine that in our country, when something is very good, excellent, extraordinary … it is «enviable«. Is Bogas Shop enviable? According to this stereotype, YES! It is a store that, for all those people outside Adra, any non-resident, can leave in their minds the trail of development, technology, modernization, current events and organization. All an example. Sure, examples like this are also worth your money. It is likely that it will have more investment and, equally, indebtedness. Have you stopped to think what it can cost Bogas Shop to open the doors?

I am a staunch defender of Spanish and of the place where I am. I have lived in many different places in our geography and abroad as well, and I perceive in myself that feeling of union and cooperation with the people of their places. Something that I find deplorable is that the locals from many geographic areas of the planet, instead of supporting each other; do the unspeakable to undermine the entrepreneurial neighbor: bad-mouthing, slandering, overshadowing, inventing and, of course, not consuming or buying. Do you think that in this way the commerce of any municipality can be promoted? Do you not think that we can all live helping each other?

Simply, look for competitive prices you the merchants, the rest should be the social support of the place. It is easy. But it’s also easy to see small businesses fall because they don’t get support from their neighborhood. What’s more, if they miss some items in their municipality, the city council could well promote brainstorming to enjoy with the knowledge of what their people like and extrapolate it to their entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs. Also, try to be competitive in your business, do not want to stay with the Saint and with alms – the stereotype of shops in small municipalities. You, the merchants, the merchants, position yourself in wanting to sell at fair prices and everything, if you walk in a «kind and beautiful» way, it is very likely that you will come to fruition.

There is no greater wealth for a place than that with the cooperation of its population. This creates an unprecedented expansive social and economic effect. It makes cities grow, not only in number, but in cultural and social diversity. Filling with wealth that is reflected in its shops, services and homes. And in good taste. Filling with abundance, filling with well-being. Because, remember, we all like to «pull it off«. But we are more fascinated by doing it comfortably and with a smile on our faces. Smile at your neighborhood, it’s free and a blessing for the soul. If you are a merchant, also remember this Eastern wisdom: «He who does not know how to smile, must not open a store«. For all this, always smile, this predisposes you to a positive attitude.

A big hug to all my readers and followers!

With affection,

Verónica García-Melero


Beuchot, Mauricio (1999). Heurística y hermenéutica. Ciudad de México: UNAM.

Moustakas, Clark (1990). Heuristic Research: Design, Methodology and Applications. Sage Publications.

McLeod, S. (2015). Stereotypes. Simply Psychology. Recuperado de:

Real Academia Española y Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (2014). «heurística». Diccionario de la lengua española (23.ª edición). Madrid: Espasa.