is generalisation actually based?
Published Apr 14, 2023 by Timothy J. Baek

In the intricate tapestry of human societies, the concepts of generalisation and stereotyping have played a crucial role in facilitating collaboration and building civilisations. While some might contend that these cognitive processes are detrimental to social progress and perpetuate bias, it is essential to recognise the inherent necessity of abstractions in our collective endeavours. Although prevailing attitudes of "wokeness" have attempted to stifle the expression of pattern recognition, they inadvertently erode the trust upon which our society rests. By exploring the intricate balance between generalisation and societal cohesion, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities at play.

To comprehend the value of generalisation, we must acknowledge its foundational role in human cognition. Our brains are inherently wired to seek patterns and derive meaning from the vast array of information we encounter. This cognitive mechanism enables us to make quick judgments and predictions based on limited data, saving valuable time and energy. For instance, consider the act of crossing a busy road. Through the generalisation that cars pose a potential threat, we instinctively exercise caution, thus ensuring our safety. Without the ability to generalise, such mundane activities would become arduous and perilous endeavours.

In the context of societal progress, generalisation becomes even more indispensable. Collaborative efforts on a grand scale necessitate a shared understanding and a common language. Abstractions, which are essentially generalisations, enable us to navigate complex problems and develop solutions collectively. Take the scientific community as an example. Scientists classify organisms into distinct categories based on shared characteristics, allowing them to make meaningful generalisations about entire species. This categorisation not only facilitates communication and knowledge transfer but also empowers researchers to address larger ecological concerns and develop strategies for conservation.

It is crucial, however, to acknowledge the potential pitfalls of generalisation. When generalisations extend beyond their intended scope and become stereotypes, they can perpetuate biases and prejudices. Stereotypes reduce individuals to oversimplified categories, disregarding their unique qualities and reinforcing harmful societal norms. However, it is important to recognise that the misuse of generalisation does not invalidate its fundamental importance. Rather, it underscores the need for critical thinking and an awareness of the limitations inherent in our cognitive processes.

Unfortunately, in recent times, the prevailing ideology of "wokeness" has created an environment that discourages the expression of pattern recognition and generalisation. While the intention behind promoting inclusivity and combating discrimination is noble, the suppression of generalisations can inadvertently lead to a breakdown of trust within society. When individuals are unable to articulate their observations or discuss patterns they have noticed, it becomes increasingly difficult to address societal issues effectively. Honest conversations are stifled, and the trust necessary for progress is undermined.

In conclusion, the interplay between generalisation, stereotyping, and societal cohesion is complex. While generalisations and stereotypes can be misused and perpetuate biases, they are foundational to human cognition and essential for collaborative efforts on a grand scale. It is imperative to strike a delicate balance, encouraging critical thinking while fostering an environment that allows for open dialogue. Only through a nuanced understanding of generalisation and its limitations can we navigate the challenges of building a just and equitable society. Thus, we must ask ourselves: in our pursuit of fairness, have we inadvertently stifled the expression of patterns and weakened the trust that binds us together?