Are We Conditioned To Be Prejudiced
Many of our behaviours can be thought of as becoming acquired through conditioning and our views and attitudes might similarly be learned. The repeated pairing of a negative attribute with a specific group might lead to prejudice e.g. all schizophrenics are dangerous. Views acquired in this way by classical conditioning might be reinforced by operant conditioning processes, such as approval from peers for stating such views or for behaving in a discriminatory way towards someone from that group . In this way, explicit and implicit messages can be transmitted from generation to generation and become part of a general culture of prejudice. Research studies have shown that children can learn prejudiced attitudes from their parents, but these correlations are typically low , suggesting that learning theory may not provide a comprehensive explanation of prejudice.
The Real Problem Might Be How We Relate To People Like Us
Prejudice waxes and wanes in society, often for reasons about which people disagree. Regardless, the more we experience social and political tension, the more we are drawn to our “own kind,” also known as an “ingroup” and become more hostile and suspicious towards those who are “different,” or what is termed in psychology as an “outgroup.”
The more anxious we feel, the more we identify with our ingroup and limit our interactions with folks we perceive as not like us. If we suffer from personal insecurities, this phenomenon may be intensified and lead to destructive bias against those we perceive as “other.”
Safety and Overidentification
Being social by nature, we find safety in groups among others like us. First, with our parents and siblings, and then with groups outside the family, like our countrymen, religious cohort, etc. When there is tension between groups, our ingroup helps us to feel safe. Think of an isolated animal in the wild. It is more vulnerable than peers who remain part of the herd of buffalo, pride of lions or school of fish.
Like animals, we look to our ingroups for security during anxious times. When anxiety between groups is heightened, a psychological shift occurs we begin to experience ourselves as members of an ingroup more than as separate individuals. We also increasingly perceive members of the outgroup as simply members of the outgroup, rather than appreciating them for their individuality.
How we can reduce prejudice?
Stereotypes In Arts And Literature
In literature and art, stereotypes are clichéd or predictable characters or situations. For example, the stereotypical “devil” is a red, impish character with horns, bifurcated tail, and a trident, whilst the stereotypical “salesman” is a slickly-dressed, fast-talking individual who cannot usually be trusted. Throughout history, storytellers have drawn from stereotypical characters and situations, in order to quickly connect the audience with new tales. Sometimes such stereotypes can be very complex and sophisticated, such as Shakespeare‘s Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Arguably a stereotype that becomes complex and sophisticated ceases to be a stereotype per se by its unique characterization. Thus while Shylock remains politically unstable in being a stereotypical Jew, the subject of prejudicial derision in Shakespeare’s era, his many other detailed features raise him above a simple stereotype and into a unique character, worthy of modern performance. Simply because a feature of a character can be categorized as being typical does not make the entire character a stereotype.
In ‘s novel Pride and Prejudice, the heroine forms a strong opinion of a man’s character before she hears his side of the story. The balance of the facts, when finally made known to her, challenges and ultimately overturns this prejudice. Prejudice is also a theme in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, in which a man is wrongly tried and convicted because of his race.
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Is Xenophobia A Mental Disorder
Xenophobia is not recognized as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . However, some psychologists and psychiatrists have suggested that extreme racism and prejudice should be recognized as a mental health problem.
Some have argued, for example, that extreme forms of prejudice should be considered a subtype of delusional disorder. It is important to note that those who support this viewpoint also argue that prejudice only becomes pathological when it creates a significant disruption in a person’s ability to function in daily life.
Other professionals argue that categorizing xenophobia or racism as a mental illness would be medicalizing a social problem.
Reference Groups In Adolescence
Conformity is especially prominent in the age of adolescence when teenagers need to follow the norms of several reference groups outside of their homes and have a high need for acceptance . Social Identity Theory suggests that groups the individuals feel to belong to influence their attitudes . Applying the Dynamic Social Impact Theory to adolescents, it can be hypothesized that if a student identifies with his or her school class, the classmates attitudes and behavior should be an important source of information and the individual will follow them. Accordingly, by following the group norms, adolescents socially connect with their own group and this way avoid exclusion . Thus, classmates should serve as a significant reference group throughout adolescence , and the perceived norms of the peer group play a role in the expression of prejudice and prejudiced behaviors of teenagers as they adjust to the current peer consensus or perceived norms . Testing the influence of peer leaders, trained to intervene against prejudiced behavior in high schools, Elizabeth Levy Paluck found that they were able to change the behavior of their close contacts among their classes but not the climate of the entire class .
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Social Status And Ethnocentrism
Another social factor that contributes to the establishment of prejudices includes a need for maintaining or elevating one’s social status. This desire can lead a person or group to form prejudices and discriminate against a minority. Perhaps the person or group is in a low socioeconomic position. Fearing competition over jobs and frustrated, they need to feel superior over someone. Often people prejudiced against blacks or Jews have held a low social status in their own society. A person with a low or declining social status is more likely to have prejudices than one who has a high social status. People experiencing a low social status frequently come from near the bottom of education, income, and occupational social levels. They are also most likely to be violent in acting out their prejudices.
The Effect Of Social Norms On Prejudice
Minard investigated how social norms influence prejudice and discrimination. The behavior of black and white miners in a town in the southern United States was observed, both above and below ground.
Below ground, where the social norm was friendly behavior towards work colleagues, 80 of the white miners were friendly towards the black miners. Above ground, where the social norm was prejudiced behavior by whites to blacks, this dropped to 20.
The white miners were conforming to different norms above and below ground. Whether or not prejudice is shown depends on the social context within which behavior takes place.
Pettigrew also investigated the role of conformity in prejudice. He investigated the idea that people who tended to be more conformist would also be more prejudiced, and found this to be true of white South African students.
Similarly, he accounted for the higher levels of prejudice against black people in the southern United States than in the north in terms of the greater social acceptability of this kind of prejudice in the south.
Rogers and Frantz found that immigrants to Rhodesia became more prejudiced the longer they had been in the country. They gradually conformed more to the prevailing cultural norm of prejudice against the black population.
Evaluation: Conformity to social norms, then, may offer an explanation for prejudice in some cases. At the same time, norms change over time, so this can only go some way towards explaining prejudice.
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How To Combat Ageism
The American Psychological Association says that ageism is a serious issue that should be treated the same as sex, race, and disability-based discrimination. The APA suggests that raising public awareness about the issues ageism creates can help. As the population of older adults continues to increase, finding ways to minimize ageism will become more important.
There is evidence that interventions can be effective for combatting ageism. These include:
- Education: Intentional instruction that helps people better understand the aging process, ageism, and its effects
- Intergenerational contact: Increased contact with people of different ages to reduce age discrimination and prejudice.
Interventions that combine the two approaches appear to be the most effective, particularly when it comes to reducing negative attitudes towards aging.
The AARP says that age-inclusive training in the workplace can also help combat discrimination. The organization suggests that such training should help employees foster a growth mindset, promote learning and advancement for people of all age groups, and present training in a variety of formats.
Whose Norms Whose Prejudice The Dynamics Of Perceived Group Norms And Prejudice In New Secondary School Classes
- 1Nationalism Studies Program, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
- 2Department of Minority Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
- 3Department of Social Research Methodology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
- 4Department of Statistics, Faculty of Social Sciences, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
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Political And Religious Causes
The social restrictions of governmental systems and religious organizations have also caused prejudices. Not only does political control, including police powers, keep minority groups in check, but nationalism does as well. Nationalism is the favoring of one’s own country over others. Nationalism can create political unity through identification with commonly held traits such as language, religion, or some physical trait. Solidarity in striving toward a common national goal is established such as expansion of political or economic control by taking over other countries.
The strength of nationalism, another social cause of prejudice, also works against efforts by dominated groups, such as the working class, to rebel. People’s strong affiliation to the nation in which they live inhibits them from combating the prejudice and discrimination of those in power. The dominant group constructs a society with symbols, such as flags and stately capitols, and words, such as allegiance and patriotism, to perpetuate these nationalistic prejudices and maintain the desired social order.
Religion can serve to combat prejudice, but it also promotes prejudice by promoting the ideas that certain people are the “chosen” people and others are not. Religion can preach that unity is the natural order of humankind and that unity is characterized by diversity, not prejudice and discrimination.
Homophobia Toward Specific Groups
While homophobia might traditionally have been applied only to those considered to be lesbian or gay, the term also extends to bisexual individuals and transgender and transsexual individuals. However, specific terms also relate to different types of LGBTQ+ individuals that reflect specific orientations.
- Lesbophobia: Lesbophobia refers to homophobia directed toward lesbians .
- Biphobia: Biphobia refers to homophobia directed toward bisexual individuals
In general, based on how homophobia varies by various social and cultural factors, it seems to stem from ignorance or irrational fear of the unfamiliar.
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Curiosity About Novelty Versus Distress Anger And Fear Of Differences
If we want to understand bias and prejudice, it might help to understand infant developmentfeelings and how they workand evolution.
Summary: Human beings are attracted to differences and noveltythis is the innate feeling of interest or curiosity.
However, if the differences and novelty are too great or come in too fast for the brain to process them, then distress and fear result.
Therefore, if the differences in color, or facial features, or gender identity, or sexual orientation, or hair, and so on, of another human are too greator one has been taught to fear these differencesdistress, anger, fear, and disgust can be triggered, and bias and prejudice may result.
Knowledgeespecially of evolutionis the key to shifting these negative feelings to positive ones of interest and enjoyment.
So What Are Bias and Prejudice?
Bias can be defined as an inclination of temperament or outlook, especially a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgmenti.e., prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfairfor example, an overgeneralization.
Prejudice can be defined as a preconceived judgment or opinion an adverse opinion or leaning without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge or an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.
How Does This Happen?
Recognizing And Correcting Your Prejudices
When you realize that you are pre-judging someone else, try asking yourself the following questions:
In addition to looking at the reasons why prejudice occurs, researchers have also explored different ways that prejudice can be reduced or even eliminated. For example, equipping yourself with the skills to be more wholly empathetic to members of another group is one method that has shown considerable success.
For instance, simply imagining yourself in the same shoes as the other person can humanize them to you. In that moment, they are no longer just a random member of a group thats different from your own .
Instead, they become a more complex being in your eyessomeone with a mother and father, a sibling, a friend to others, a co-worker, a romantic partner. Someone with unique interests, the ability to love, cry, and feel.
Other techniques that are used to reduce prejudice include:
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Understanding Prejudice And Discrimination
Can you think of a prejudiced attitude you have held toward a group of people? How did your prejudice develop? Prejudice often begins in the form of a stereotypethat is, a negative belief 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, someone holding prejudiced attitudes toward older adults, may believe that older adults are slow and incompetent . We cannot possibly know each individual person of advanced age to know that all older adults are slow and incompetent. Therefore, this negative belief is overgeneralized to all members of the group, even though many of the individual group members may in fact be spry and intelligent.
Another example of a well-known stereotype involves beliefs about racial differences among athletes. As Hodge, Burden, Robinson, and Bennett 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 in a given culture .
Causes Of Prejudice And Discrimination
- Clarify how social identity theory and social categorization explain prejudice and discrimination.
- Describe how negative group stereotypes and prejudice are socialized.
- Explain whether emotions can predict intolerance.
- Discuss theories explaining the inevitability of intergroup rivalry and conflict over limited resources.
- Clarify how attribution theory explains prejudice and discrimination.
9.2.1. Social Identity Theory and Social Categorization
Tajfel et al. stated that we associate the various social categories with positive or negative value connotations which in turn lead to a positive or negative social identity, based on the evaluations of groups that contribute to our social identity. We also evaluate our group by making a social comparison to other groups. They write, positively discrepant comparisons between in-group and out-group produce high prestige negatively discrepant comparisons between in-group and out-group result in low prestige . We desire favorable comparisons between the in-group and some relevant out-groups meaning the in-group is seen as distinct. Our self-esteem can be boosted through our personal achievements or by being associated with successful groups.
9.2.2. Socialization of Negative Group Stereotypes and Prejudice
9.2.3. Do Emotions Predict Intolerance?
For more from the Monitor on Psychology article, please visit:
9.2.5. Attribution Theory
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Ageism Against Older People
Researchers have suggested that stereotypes about older people often relate to how younger people expect them to behave.
Speak Up When You Are Being Mistreated
If someone is directing homophobic comments toward you, avoid becoming defensive. Instead, try to respond in a positive way so that you are not stooping to their level . If responding positively feels like too much of an effort, you could choose instead to simply walk away from the situation or the person.
If it’s a person who you can’t walk away from for some reason , find a person in authority and tell them what is going on. Homophobic insults are considered harassment or abuse and need not be tolerated.
If someone has made you feel uncomfortable with their comments, but you don’t think they are aware of their homophobia, consider sharing with them how their words are affecting you. Talking openly about your feelings may help them to realize the impact that they are having, without needing to get upset or be confrontational.
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