The ones that don’t fit in the pigeonholes

By Gordon Rugg

One of the favourite activities of bureaucrats and of bigots down the ages is fitting people into pigeonholes. This has caused a lot of misery down the ages.

In the case of bureaucrats, the misery is usually nothing personal. The bureaucrats are using pigeonholes designed either by someone higher up the food chain, or by the bureaucrats themselves to make their own lives easier. Any pain caused to the people being forced into those pigeonholes is a side-effect of the pigeonholes they’re using, not of sadism on the bureaucrats’ part.

It’s still pain, though, just as much as the pain caused by categorising people into in-groups and out-groups, which was the topic of an earlier article. To add insult to injury, it can also feed into a vicious cycle where problems with pigeonholes and problems from prejudice can each exacerbate the other.

In this article, I’ll be looking at pigeonholing, and people who don’t fit in, and how this issue maps onto the bigger question of how humans make sense of their world and of each other.

As a positive closing note, I’ll also be looking at some examples of bureaucrats using pigeonholes in the cause of good. It can happen…

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In-groups, out-groups and the Other

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a quick overview of some long-established and useful concepts from sociology and related fields.

It’s mainly intended as background for another article that I’ll be posting soon, about how most systems treat people who don’t fit neatly into pre-established pigeonholes.

If you already know about in-groups, out-groups etc you might still find this article interesting, because I’ve included some thoughts about cognitive load as a factor in group dynamics.

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