Physical Appearance Categorization Activity

This activity is meant for individual reflection, but can also be tailored for group discussion and sharing. After this activity, students should be more aware of their prejudices and should be able to better identify where they came from.


The purpose of this activity is for students to explore how physical appearance cues affect our perceptions of others. Students will consider the cues people use to categorize others including cues based on social categories, such as race and gender, and cues based on clothing style and facial expression. Students will also consider the how they might have been socialized to think a certain way about social group members.

Estimated Time

15-20 minutes

Group Size

This activity works best with a class size of 30 or fewer, but could be modified for larger class by having students work in groups.  During discussion, the instructor can rotate among the groups and/or have teaching assistants facilitate discussion in the smaller groups.


Instructors should choose the worksheets they wish to use and can give them to students individually or display them on a screen.  Students look at each pair of photos and answer the questions.  Students should be encouraged to base their responses on their first impressions and can be reminded that people often make snap judgments based on those first responses.