Stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about groups of people based on characteristics (race, gender, sexual, orientation, religion, disability) and can be positive or negative.
Prejudice often begins in the form of a stereotype—that is, a specific belief or assumption about individuals based solely on their membership in a group, regardless of their individual characteristics. Stereotypes become overgeneralized and applied to all members of a group. For example, as Hodge, Burden, Robinson, and Bennett (2008) point out, black male athletes are often believed to be more athletic, yet less intelligent, than their white male counterparts. These beliefs persist despite a number of high profile examples to the contrary. Sadly, such beliefs often influence how these athletes are treated by others and how they view themselves and their own capabilities. Whether or not you agree with a stereotype, stereotypes are generally well-known within a given culture.