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Prejudice

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Prejudice

Have you ever instantly disliked someone before you got to know them? What did you think about them when you first met? As you got to know them, were your assumptions proven wrong? Examples like this happen all the time in real life. When they happen on a societal scale, however, they become much more problematic.

What are the explanations of prejudice?

People who are prejudiced hold negative views of certain people based on insufficient or incomplete levels of knowledge of them. Prejudice in psychology differs from discrimination because discrimination is when you act on a prejudiced view.

Prejudice is a biased opinion that people hold of others because of an unjustifiable reason or an experience.

An example of discrimination (prejudice in action) is a company not hiring someone solely because they have a mental illness.

Prejudice definition StudySmarterPrejudice, Flaticon

Some additional prejudice examples include subtle prejudice, racism, ageism, homophobia, etc.

The nature of prejudice in social psychology explanations focuses on how social group conflicts explain prejudice. Both theories suggest that people form social groups based on who they identify with, the in-group. The individual starts to have prejudicial and discriminatory thoughts of the out-group either to boost their self-esteem or for competitive reasons.

Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979, 1986)

Tajfel (1979) proposed the social identity theory, which says that social identity is formed based on group membership.

In-groups: people who we identify with Out-groups: people who we do not identify with

Groups that we identify with may be based on similarities or differences between race, gender, sociocultural class, favourite sports teams, and age, to name a few. Tajfel described it as a normal cognitive process to categorise people into groups socially. The social group that people identify with can influence an individual’s views and attitudes towards people in the out-groups. Tajfel and Turner (1986) described three stages in the social identity theory:

  1. Social categorisation:

    • The purpose of categorising people into groups is to understand more about people.

    • People are grouped into social categories based on their traits, and individuals begin to identify with the social groups they have similarities. Examples can include your favourite types of music, your ethnicity, and which football club you support.

  2. Social identification:

    • Accept the group’s identity the individual identifies with (in-group) as their own.

      Someone socially categorises and accepts themself as Jewish. They will conform to the norms, attitudes, values, and behaviour standards of the in-group. The individual may only eat kosher food and abstain from eating pork.

  3. Social comparison:

    • The individual compares the in-group to the out-group. The in-group is seen as more favourable. The purpose of this is to boost self-esteem and emphasise the negative of the out-group.

The social identity theory explains that prejudice results from in-group members attempting to criticise the out-group for boosting their self-esteem. This can give rise to prejudice and discrimination towards the out-group, such as racial discrimination.

A prejudiced example is thinking someone is dangerous solely because of the colour of their skin.

Realistic conflict theory (Sherif, 1966)

The realistic conflict theory proposes that conflict and prejudice arise due to groups competing for limited resources, causing conflict between the groups. This theory describes how situational factors (environmental factors rather than the self) cause prejudice. The procedure of the Sherif (1966) study was as follows:

  • They split 22 eleven-year-olds, white, middle-class boys into two groups: the Eagles and the Rattlers.
  • For the first week of the study, participants only interacted and engaged in collaborative tasks with in-group members.
  • There were a series of competitions between the two groups.
  • The final phase of the study was to reduce in-group and out-group bias by making the two groups work together to achieve a goal.

The Sherif (1966) study results were as follows:

  • Participants interacted only with their group members, leading them to accept themself and group members as the in-group.
  • Participants of both groups then had to compete against each other in multiple competitions. The winners were awarded prizes. During this, the in-group became hostile towards the out-group.
  • Participants of both groups worked together to achieve a goal. The inter-group conflict only began to resolve when both groups wanted to achieve superordinate goals that could only be achieved with efforts from both groups.

This finding shows that prejudice between groups may result from situational factors such as competing against each other. In real-life settings such as education, this conflict may arise in terms of seeking attention or popularity.

Prejudice Conflict representation StudySmarterConflict representation, Flaticon

What factors contribute to prejudice?

The definition of prejudice in social psychology reflects how prejudice can be caused by individuals’ thoughts/biases based on personal experiences. However, the social identity theory shows that accepting/conforming to the views of people you identify with can also contribute to prejudice. Research found that internal factors (such as personality) and external factors (such as societal norms) can cause prejudice.

Situtation and culture

The realistic conflict theory and Sherif’s (1966) research show how situational factors contribute to prejudice. Both of these highlight how competitive environments can lead to prejudice. Moreover, the social identity theory shows how social identity and conflict between in- and out-groups can lead to prejudice.

Tajfel carried out research to identify whether intergroup discrimination would occur when people had just formed groups. The first phase of the study was social categorisation – i.e. the participants in groups of eight had to perform a task. Participants were then randomly assigned to new groups underestimator or overestimator.

The study’s second phase was when participants were told that they needed to choose who to reward money to (in-group or out-group). Participants were not told who they were giving money to, but rather, they were told if they were in-group or out-group members. The results of Tajfel’s study were that the participants gave money mostly to in-group members.

These results show people tend to discriminate against people they have just assigned as out-group members and form an allegiance with in-group members. Societies’ (in-group) values, norms, rules and views of concepts and people can lead to prejudice.

For example, people may label a teenager as a delinquent and troublemaker if he dropped out of college.

Cultural influences can also affect prejudice. This explains how environmental factors can contribute to prejudice. The differences between individualistic (Western society) and collectivist (Eastern society) can lead to prejudice. In western society, people are typically less reserved traditional and emphasise individual needs rather than their communities. In eastern society, people are typically conservative and traditional and place importance on community.

An example of prejudice is that most people living in Western people may label a man as strange if he’s wearing a skirt, even if this is standard attire in parts of Asia. An example of prejudice is people living in eastern society may label a Westerner as a troublemaker, rude and loud for being confrontational when they have an issue.

Prejudice Cultural differences StudySmarterCultural differences, Flaticon

Personality and prejudice

The nature of prejudice in social psychology has been researched. Social psychology has attempted to identify individual differences, such as if people with certain personality styles are more likely to be prejudicial.

Cohrs et al. (2012): Experiment 1 procedure

The study was carried out in Germany and collected data from 193 native Germans (those with disabilities, were homosexual, or were foreign were not included). The experiment aimed to identify if personality styles (the big five, right-wing authoritarianism; RWA, social dominance orientation; SDO) could predict prejudice.

RWA is a personality style characterised by people who tend to be submissive to authority figures.

SDO refers to a personality style where people readily accept or have preferences towards socially unequal situations.

The participants and an acquaintance of theirs were asked to complete a questionnaire that measured participants' personality and attitudes (two questionnaires assessing prejudice by measuring attitudes towards homosexuality, disabilities and foreigners). The purpose of asking peers to complete the questionnaires was to identify what they believed should be the participants’ responses. Cohrs et al. could identify if participants answered in a socially desirable way. If this is the case, this will affect the validity of the results.

Cohrs et al. (2012): Experiment 2 procedure

The same questionnaires were used on 424 native Germans. Similar to experiment 1, the study used an opportunity sample to recruit participants. The difference between the studies was that this one recruited twins from the Jena Twin Registry and a peer. One twin was asked to complete the questionnaire based on their attitudes (participant), whilst the other twin and peer had to report based on the participant. The role of the other twin and peer is to act as a control in the experiment. To identify if the participant’s results are valid.

The results of both parts of the study were as follows:

  • The big five:

    • Low agreeableness scores predicted SDO

    • Low agreeableness and openness to experiences predicted prejudice

    • High conscientiousness and low openness to experiences predicted RWA scores.

  • RWA predicted prejudice (this was not the case for SDO)

  • Similar scores were found between participants and controls ratings in the questionnaire. Answering in a socially desirable way does not majorly affect participants’ responses.

The results suggest that certain personality traits (especially low agreeableness and openness to experience) are more likely to have prejudicial views.

Issues and debates of research investigating prejudice

There are many issues and debates that the nature of prejudice in social psychology research may raise. Many psychologists believe research should be carried out scientifically and empirically. However, it is difficult to investigate the nature of prejudice empirically. Social psychology research tends to rely on self-report techniques such as questionnaires.

Research has many valuable applications in society, such as finding ways to reduce conflict between social groups and society. One can reduce intergroup bias by getting people of various groups to identify themselves as one. As individuals will begin to see out-group members as in-group, they may start to have a positive rather than negative bias towards them. Gaertner called the process of changing views of out-group members becoming in-group re-categorisation.

An example of this is Gaertner (1993) formed the Common In-Group Identity Model. The purpose of the model was to explain how to reduce intergroup bias.

Ethical issues may arise, such as causing psychological distress because of potentially sensitive topics. In addition, the models proposed, such as social identity theory, are quite simplistic. This is because the theories indicate that situational factors dictate people’s behaviour and attitudes towards others. It ignores and does not explain how people become friends with people they have little to no commonalities. Researchers should be careful when generalising their results.

Examples of overcoming prejudice are:

  • Public campaigns
  • Teaching children at a young age about prejudice
  • Making laws
  • Changing group boundaries to form one in-group, rather than having multiple groups

Prejudice - Key takeaways

  • Prejudice is a biased opinion people hold of others because of an unjustifiable reason or an experience.
  • The social identity theory and the realistic conflict theory have been proposed to explain how prejudice arises. The theories describe how conflicts and the competitive nature between the in-groups and out-groups can give rise to prejudice.
  • Research has found that people with certain personality styles are more likely to hold prejudiced views. Cohrs et al. (2012) carried out research that supports this thesis.
  • Research on prejudice raises potential issues and debates in psychology, such as ethical issues, practical applications of research, and psychology as a science.
  • Gaertner called the process of changing views of out-group members becoming in-group re-categorisation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Prejudice

Examples of overcoming prejudice are:

  • Public campaigns 
  • Teaching children at a young age of prejudice 
  • Making laws
  • Changing group boundaries to form one in-group, rather than having multiple

Psychological research suggests that prejudice and discrimination can be explained by:

  • Personality styles 
  • Social identity theory 
  • Realistic conflict theory 

Prejudice is a biased opinion people hold of others for an unjustifiable reason or an experience. 

An example of prejudice is thinking someone is dangerous because of the colour of their skin. 

Types of prejudice are:

  • Subtle prejudice 
  • Racism 
  • Ageism 
  • Homophobia

Final Prejudice Quiz

Question

What is the definition of prejudice? 

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Answer

Prejudice is a biased opinion people hold of others because of an unjustifiable reason or an experience.

Show question

Question

What are the stages of social identity theory? 

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Answer

The stages of the social identity theory are:

  1. social categorisation 
  2. social identification 
  3. social comparison 

Show question

Question

How does the social identity theory explain prejudice?

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Answer

The social identity theory explains that prejudice results from members of the in-group attempting to criticise the out-group for boosting their self-esteem. This can give rise to prejudice and discrimination towards the out-group, such as racial discrimination. 

Show question

Question

Which stage describes that people accept the values of the ingroup as their own? 

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Answer

Social categorisation 

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Question

What factors does the realistic conflict theory explain as causing prejudice?

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Answer

Situational factors 

Show question

Question

How does the realistic conflict theory explain prejudice? 

Show answer

Answer

The realistic conflict theory proposes that conflict and prejudice arise due to groups competing for limited resources, causing conflict. This theory describes how situational factors (environmental factors rather than the self) cause prejudice. 

Show question

Question

What did Sherifs (1966) experiment find?

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Answer

  • Phase 1 of Sherifs’ (1966) experiment found participants interacted only with their group members, leading them to accept themself and group members as the in-group.
  • During phase 2 of the experiment, whilst competing the in-group became hostile towards the out-group and prejudiced.

Show question

Question

Which of the following types of society may have the following prejudiced view, ‘may label a man as strange if they’re wearing a skirt’?

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Answer

Western

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Question

Which of the following types of society may have the following prejudiced view, 'label a stranger as a troublemaker, rude and loud for being confrontational when they have an issue’?

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Answer

Collectivist 

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Question

Which of the following personality styles did Cohrs et al. (2012) find to predict prejudice? 

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Answer

Low penness 

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Question

What issues and debates do research on prejudice raise in psychology?

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Answer

Potential issues and debates raised by prejudice research are:

  • Psychology as a science
  • Ethical issues 
  • Practical applications 

Show question

Question

How did Cohrs et al. (2012) try to combat social desirability issues raised by using questionnaires as a research design?

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Answer

The researcher asked participants and their peers or twin to answer the questionnaires of how they think the participant should respond. This was done to see if they could identify if they responded to the question similarly. 

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