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Discrimination

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Discrimination

Our brains understand the world by categorizing what we see and experience. It is a survival mechanism to learn to avoid putting our hands on a hot burner next time to avoid getting hurt. However, these generalizations of our world can lead to harmful consequences, especially in social interactions. Our preconceived ideas and beliefs about other groups or types of people can be unfair and lead to behaviors and actions that can cause real pain and suffering.

  • What is discrimination?
  • What are the types of discrimination?
  • What are impacts of discrimination?

Discrimination and Prejudice: Definitions and Differences

Although the terms ‘prejudice’ and ‘discrimination’ are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Prejudice refers to an attitude, while discrimination refers to an action or behavior.

Prejudice Definition

How we relate to one another can be complex and influenced by personal experiences, upbringing, and who we spend our time with. Prejudice, also described as “prejudgement,” refers to an attitude one holds towards a group and its members. An attitude is a feeling that is influenced by one’s beliefs.

However, when referring to prejudice, these attitudes are usually negative and accompanied by negative emotions such as fear or hostility.

Prejudice refers to an often negative, unjustifiable attitude towards a type of person, group, or thing.

.Discrimination, a sign for welcoming refugees, StudySmarter

Welcoming refugees, pixabay.com

Our generalized beliefs about a group of people from past experiences or interactions can play a large role in prejudice. These beliefs are stereotypes, a generalized and oversimplified attitude, belief, or idea about a type of person, group, or thing.

Discrimination Definition

While a person's prejudice can be a powerful influence on their life, it does not always result in behavior. Sometimes, people will live their entire lives believing a stereotype about a group of people but will never let their actions towards them reflect that belief. However, prejudice does predispose a person to discriminatory action.

Discrimination refers to an individual's unjustifiable action or behavior towards a group and its members, type of person, or thing.

For example, a person who believes in ethnocentrism — the belief that one race is superior to another — may be prejudiced towards ethnicities other than their own but will never actually discriminate in their actions or behaviors.

Two Types of Discrimination

Discrimination is not just one form of behavior or action but can take on many different forms. There are two types of discrimination - direct and indirect.

Causes of Discrimination

Before discussing the two types of discrimination, we must first understand what causes these unjustifiable actions towards others. The targets of discrimination are always part of or related to a protected class. There can be many types of protected classes, but common ones may include:

  • Race and ethnicity
  • Gender

  • Religion
  • LGBTQ+
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Medical diagnoses (i.e. Aids/HIV, pregnancy)

Discrimination Jim Crow and Causes of Discrimination StudySmarterDiscrimination ran rampant when Jim Crow laws separating white and black people were still in place. Pixabay.com

Discrimination is often the result of the actions of someone outside a protected class. However, it is possible a person can discriminate against another individual or group of people who are in their protected class.

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is when a person or group of people are treated worse than another person or group of people for any of the following reasons:

  • They are part of a protected class.

  • They are perceived to be part of a protected class.

  • They are connected to someone who is part of a protected class.

To be classified as direct discrimination, a person must be able to identify another person or group of people who are treated better than they are. Or, they would have to argue that another person or group of people would be treated differently if they were in a similar situation.

Direct Discrimination: Examples

Direct discrimination refers to a specific unfair action, behavior, or treatment of a person. Here are some examples:

  • Isaac does not move forward in the interview process for a position he is well qualified for after disclosing a mental health diagnosis.

  • Jacky and Terri's rental applications were rejected after the landlord discovered they were a lesbian couple.

  • Hassan and his family are always stopped for additional security screening at the airport because they are Arab-Americans.

  • Suzanne is no longer invited to social functions at the church because her boyfriend is Buddhist.

Indirect Discrimination

Sometimes, discrimination doesn't occur through explicit and overt actions or behavior but due to a policy. Indirect discrimination occurs when a policy, rule, or arrangement that applies to everyone negatively affects or disadvantages a person or group of people who are part of a protected class.

Discrimination, a blind person, disabilities and types of discrimination StudySmarterBlind man with two dogs, freepik.com

Indirect discrimination can be more difficult to identify because a person must prove that the policy that applies to everyone does not affect everyone in the same way. Also, a person's intent is irrelevant when discussing indirect discrimination. In other words, it doesn't matter if someone meant for a new policy or rule to affect a protected class negatively.

Indirect Discrimination: Examples

Here are some real-world examples of indirect discrimination:

  • A new rule at work says that no employees can take Saturdays or Sundays off. However, this is direct discrimination against Jewish people who observe the Sabbath on Saturdays or Christians who go to church on Sundays.

  • The school's dress code prohibits braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks. This is indirect discrimination against black students who primarily wear these hairstyles.

  • A military position has a minimum height requirement that is irrelevant to the role. This can discriminate against women who are likely to be below that height requirement.

What Are the Impacts of Discrimination?

Discrimination can affect a person's physical and mental health and socioeconomic status.

Physical Health

It is widely known that stress can be very dangerous to a person's health. Stress has been connected to several diseases, including high cholesterol and heart complications. Facing discrimination regularly can be a significant stressor in a person's life. Discrimination is not only stressful due to personal experiences. It can be hurtful to see other members of one's protected class face discrimination. According to Flores et al. (2008), racial and ethnic perceived discrimination can cause stress directly or indirectly affecting physical health.

Discrimination, types of discrimination, StudySmarter

Prejudice and discrimination, pixabay.com

Additionally, studies have found that discrimination such as racism can affect health because it can lead to unhealthy coping behaviors such as substance abuse or unhealthy eating habits (Anderson, 2012). Discrimination can also affect how a protected class is treated in the healthcare industry. For example, individuals with a mental health diagnosis may not receive proper health care due to physicians dismissing their symptoms. Even the fear of facing discrimination while receiving health care may prevent people in a protected class from seeking the medical treatment they desperately need.

Mental Health

Discrimination can also take a toll on a person's mental health. Stress resulting from discrimination does not only negatively affect one's physical health but also one's mental health. Stress can affect a person's coping ability and trigger mental health episodes.

For example, studies have found that gay men experience a higher prevalence of major depression and panic attacks than heterosexual men (Burgess et al., 2007). And according to Sutter and Perrin (2016), daily stress as a result of social oppression may explain why people of color are at greater risk for depression and suicide. A lowered sense of control over perceived discrimination can also be a factor in decreased well-being and greater distress among Arab-Americans (Moradi & Hasan, 2004).

Furthermore, discrimination can negatively impact a person's access to mental health treatment. For example, a therapist who may have prejudicial beliefs toward older people may not offer the proper support for a 65-year-old who wants to start a new career. Or people of a protected class might experience gaslighting while receiving mental health treatment.

Gaslighting is when a person causes someone to question their reality, feelings, emotions, or sanity.

A therapist who does not fully understand how police killings of unarmed black men affect the entire black community may not believe clients who report signs of depression in response.

Socioeconomic Status

Discrimination can most directly affect a person's socioeconomic status. For example, indirect discrimination occurs through policies such as gerrymandering, preventing children in minority neighborhoods from having access to a good education. Gender-related wage discrimination results in a lower socioeconomic status for women who are often paid less than men. Socioeconomic status can then trickle down into other areas, including physical and mental health (Williams, 1999).

Discrimination - Key takeaways

  • Although the terms ‘prejudice’ and ‘discrimination’ are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Prejudice refers to an attitude, while discrimination refers to an action or behavior.
    • A stereotype is a generalized and oversimplified attitude, belief, or idea about a type of person, group, or thing.
  • Causes of discrimination include race/ethnicity, gender, religion, LGBTQ+, age, disability, or medical diagnoses.
  • Discrimination is not just one form of behavior or action but can take on many different forms. There are two types of discrimination - direct and indirect.
  • Direct discrimination is when a person or group of people are treated worse than another person or group of people.
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when a policy, rule, or arrangement that applies to everyone negatively affects or disadvantages a person or group of people who are part of a protected class.

Frequently Asked Questions about Discrimination

Discrimination refers to an individual's unjustifiable action or behavior toward a group and its members, type of person, or thing.

The four main types of discrimination in the workplace are race/ethnic discrimination, sex and gender discrimination, age discrimination, and disability discrimination.

Isaac does not move forward in the interview process for a position he is well qualified for after disclosing a mental health diagnosis.

Direct discrimination refers to a specific unfair action, behavior, or treatment of a person. Indirect discrimination occurs when a policy, rule, or arrangement that applies to everyone negatively affects or disadvantages a person or group of people who are part of a protected class.

Discrimination can have many negative effects on a person's mental health. Understanding the impact of the stress caused by perceived discrimination can be extremely important when treating individuals part of a protected class. 

Final Discrimination Quiz

Question

Prejudice refers to an _____ while discrimination refers to an action or behavior.

Show answer

Answer

attitude

Show question

Question

A feeling that is influenced by one’s beliefs is called a(n) _________

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Answer

attitude

Show question

Question

What is discrimination?

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Answer

Discrimination refers to an individual's unjustifiable action or behavior toward a group and its members, type of person, or thing.

Show question

Question

What are the two main types of discrimination?


Show answer

Answer

Direct and indirect

Show question

Question

Which of the following can be considered a protected class?

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Answer

All of these

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Question

True or False

Someone can experience direct discrimination even if they are connected to someone who is part of a protected class.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Jacky and Terri's rental applications were rejected after the landlord discovered they were a lesbian couple. What type of discrimination is this an example of?

Show answer

Answer

Direct

Show question

Question

The school's dress code prohibits braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks. This is indirect discrimination against black students who primarily wear these hairstyles. What type of discrimination is this an example of?

Show answer

Answer

Indirect

Show question

Question

True or False 

Discrimination usually does not affect a person's physical health.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

_______________ occurs when a policy, rule, or arrangement that applies to everyone negatively affects or disadvantages a person or group of people who are part of a protected class.

Show answer

Answer

Indirect discrimination

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Question

________________ is when a person or group of people are treated worse than another person or group of people for any of the following reasons: they are part of a protected class, they are perceived to be part of a protected class, or they are connected to someone who is part of a protected class. 

Show answer

Answer

Direct discrimination

Show question

Question

A ____________ is a generalized and oversimplified attitude, belief, or idea about a type of person, group, or thing.


Show answer

Answer

stereotype

Show question

Question

______ resulting from discrimination does not only negatively affect one's physical health but also one's mental health.

Show answer

Answer

Stress

Show question

Question

What is gaslighting?

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Answer

Gaslighting is when a person causes someone to question their reality, feelings, emotions, or sanity.

Show question

Question

True or False

Studies have found that gay men experience a higher prevalence of major depression and panic attacks than heterosexual men.

Show answer

Answer

True. (Burgess et al., 2007)

Show question

Question

True or false. There are instances where prejudice is justifiable.

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Answer

False

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Question

True or false. Prejudice predisposes a person to discriminatory action.

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Answer

True

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Question

The targets of discrimination are always part of or related to a ________.

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Answer

protected class

Show question

Question

Direct discrimination occurs for any of the following reasons:

Being ______ of a protected class.

Being ______ to be part of a protected class.

Being ______ to someone who is part of a protected class.

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Answer

part, perceived, connected

Show question

Question

The cashier made some derogatory remarks to an Asian customer. Is this situation direct or indirect discrimination?


Cashier, pexels.com | StudySmarter OriginalCashier, pexels.com

Show answer

Answer

direct discrimination

Show question

Question

A Muslim student must bring a signed note from her parents informing the school that she will be wearing a hijab to school in order to do so. Is this instance of discrimination direct or indirect? 



Student wearing hijab, pexels.com | StudySmarter OriginalStudent wearing hijab, pexels.com

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Answer

Indirect discrimination

Show question

Question

A person from the LGBT community has been invited as a keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony. The venue manager asked the school to change the speaker. What type of discrimination is this?


Graduation ceremony, pexels.com | StudySmarter OriginalGraduation ceremony, pexels.com

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Answer

Direct discrimination

Show question

Question

Regularly facing discrimination can be a significant _______ in a person's life. 

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Answer

stressor

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Question

True or false. Discrimination can lead to unhealthy coping behaviors.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Discrimination can most directly affect a person's:

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Answer

Socioeconomic status

Show question

Question

True or false. Stereotypes play a large role in prejudice.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Ethnocentrism is:

Show answer

Answer

the belief that one race is superior to another

Show question

Question

When it comes to discrimination, having AIDS or HIV is considered a:


HIV symbol, pexels.com | StudySmarter OriginalHIV symbol, pexels.com

Show answer

Answer

Protected class

Show question

Question

True or false. Discrimination always occurs through explicit and overt actions or behavior.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Indirect discrimination can be more difficult to identify because:

Show answer

Answer

A person must prove that the policy that applies to everyone does not affect everyone in the same way

Show question

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