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I know, I'm going into the theoretical part instead of a simple practical question. But I think it's worth discussing here.

Often it is said that Persona is archetype and not stereotype. Can anyone please explain the rational behind this and even before that how do we take context of these terms (archetype and stereotype) pertaining to Persona.

It will be a great help to understand these concepts with good examples.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

An archetype refers to a generic version of a personality or person and is neutral.

While a stereotype refers to the attributes that people think characterize a group, and is usually negative. Additionally a stereotype has little to do with the individual, and so mostly tries to characterise them based on group affiliation or association. In other words, inferred characteristics.

With a persona, you're describing relevant attributes of some typical users, not inferring attributes based on some group affiliation or prejudice. Hence, a persona is better described as an archetype.

It's worth noting that we often include aspects that aren't relevant in a persona in an attempt to give the persona an identity. Things like name, favourite colour, gender etc.


By way of examples:

Archetypes:
Novice user
Engineer (i.e. technical)
Prioritises efficiency
Educated

Stereotypes:
Asian
From the developing world
Woman

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Thanks John! It definitely helps. Last statement is interesting and contrary.. while generalizing from the group (in order to create persona), you still are making it 'specific individual' user by giving name, gender. –  Spicerjet Jun 3 '13 at 11:20
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Personas are a combination of people through research (quan. and/or qual.). Stereotypes have no data and are often formed without adequate facts.

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Very good point here! Thank you –  Spicerjet Jun 5 '13 at 5:01
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Adding to John's answer, while searching more on this, I got some reference. In the topic 'Personas are empathy tools, not stereotypes'; Sam Ladner explains the stereotypes more clearly.

.. But to use a typification often has the unintended consequence of being condescending. Elderly people are spoken to in loud, exagerrated tones. Women are assumed to be physically fragile. Men are considered to be sexually aggressive. These typifications are stereotypes that affect how we, in turn, react. Elderly people may react angrily, for example, at the implied loss of their faculties.

Designers often make the same mistake when making personas. Personas are tools to evoke empathy. But poorly created personas will simply regurgitate stereotypes instead of actually answering real needs. When a site is designed “for women,” it should allow women (and all of its users) to define their experience, according to their needs. Women may have more need to juggle schedules, for example, so interactive experiences should allow them to adopt such features.

Sam further adds that for a general purpose website for women, creating a persona for 'a childless woman of 38' might not actually help. You shoud not force users to use feature, in fact empathise them.

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