Saturday, February 19, 2011

When was the last time you were a cookie thief?

There is a poem called "The Cookie Thief" by Valerie Cox. We are all cookie thieves sometimes in how we erroneously use the categories that Charon talks about. When was the last time you were too quick to categorize or judge someone? Have you ever been stereotyped or judged wrongly? There was a Washington Post experiment in which Joshua Bell, violin virtuoso, played some of the greatest classical pieces ever written on one of the most expensive violins ever made. And yet few people noticed because he was dressed like an average guy and he was playing in the subway.
Below is a video about a different type of street performer that challenges your assumptions about people and categories.

Another great piece of media about stereotypes is episode 362 from This American Life. Click here to listen to the episode where 5 people tell stories about stereotyping. Listen to the prologue about people with disabilities, and Act One about NY cops stereotyping people coming from Brooklyn.


  1. I'm not entirely sure, that could be. We are in a culture that says to expect less from handicapped people because they aren't able to do as much.
    I like to think it could also be that because he has a disability and we see he is capable of things average for normal people, we respect that and it attracts our attention. It's a little different than the usual perception of a disabled person too. So while I'm not entirely sure, I think it's a safe bet to say that "reason" only plays a minor role in it because everyone thinks and generalizes differently in their head, it's only in language people have commonalities. So what's "reasonable" for some might be strange for someone else and for that I'm not sure "reason" is the best word to use in a sociological context.

  2. Everyone is a cookie thief. Everyone has stereotyped at some point in their lives. Everyone makes assumptions constantly, it is part of our nature and to some extent part of survival. One assumes the food they eat is not poison. It is when people stereotype others based on such generalities as race or ethnicity that the ignorance of people really shows.

  3. I think that categories are defined by society not by us. and stereotypes come from us

  4. I think its very interesting that someone who is handicapped would go past his physical boundry to prove to everyone and himself that he's not so different from everyone else. In society today people think that he shouldnt be doing this and this steriotype is completely false. Having a disability should not limit anyone.

  5. Hey Sal, it's Andrea from your 2nd period socioglogy class. I changed my blog that you gave a 9/10 on and I developed it. Thanks!

  6. This is a very powerful video and I feel happy that this guy made something of his life despite having a serious disability. I think that this is very good for a community to see because it shows them that they should be more open to new sociological experiences.

  7. I loved watching the videos in class! :D I thought they were very powerful and the fact that people who have severe disabilities in real life seriously inspires me to follow my dreams

  8. Hi Chris,
    I live near DC and occasionally take the Metro. I remember the Post article about Joshua Bell playing in the station. The main point made by the author was that few people stopped to listen even though the musician was clearly more highly skilled than most street musicians. But Bell was posted in the station during the height of morning rush hour. Even if people wanted to stop and listen, they were on their way to work, and did not have time to do so.
    The acoustics of a subway station are not conducive to violin concerts, especially when the station is packed with commuters. Further, like most people, Bell looks different on his professionally photographed album or program covers from his "real life" appearance.I own a couple of his CDs, but I doubt I would recognize him on the street. While certainly the idea is valid that we make assumptions based upon context, and no one would expect Bell to be playing in the subway with his violin case open for people to toss in change, there are also mitigating factors. This experiment falls into the criticism of many social psychology experiments: how valid are results in an artificial context?
    Your blog is always terrific, and I like your students' comments. Thanks!
    Andrea Jacobs
    Maryvale Prep
    Brooklandville, MD