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History Of Prejudice And Stereotyping Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2040 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. A preconceived preference or idea.  A prejudiced perspective or point of view; a skeptical, critical attitude; distorted vision that perceives everything as faulty, inferior, or undesirable.

I am an Indian and I eat rice. This phrase is based on the assumption that every Indian eats rice.

Examples of PREJUDICE

The organization fights against racial prejudice.

religious, racial, and sexual prejudices

We tend to make these kinds of decisions according to our own prejudices.

He has a prejudice against fast-food restaurants.

But today most black Americans not hampered by poverty or prejudice take for granted their right to study Italian, listen to Britney Spears or opera, play in the NHL, eat Thai food, live anywhere, work anywhere, play anywhere, read and think and say anything.


The first psychological research conducted on prejudice occurred in the 1920s. This research was done to attempt to prove white supremacy. One article from 1925 reviewing 73 studies on race concluded that the “studies take all together seem to indicate the mental superiority of the white race”.[3] This research among others led many psychologists to view prejudice as a natural response to inferior races.

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In the 1930s and 1940s, this perspective began to change due to the increasing concern about anti-Semitism. Theorists of this time viewed prejudice as pathological and looked for personality syndromes linked with racism. Theorist Theodor Adorno believed prejudice stemmed from an authoritarian personality. Adorno described authoritarians as “rigid thinkers who obeyed authority, saw the world as black and white, and enforced strict adherence to social rules and hierarchies”.[4] Adorno believed people with authoritarian personalities were the most likely to be prejudiced against groups of lower status.

Types of Prejudice

Prejudice can be based upon a number of factors including sex, race, age, sexual orientations, nationality, socioeconomic status and religion. Some of the most well-known types of prejudice include:






Religious prejudice


Prejudice and Stereotyping

When prejudice occurs, stereotyping and discrimination may also result. In many cases, prejudices are based upon stereotypes. A stereotype is a simplified assumption about a group based on prior assumptions. Stereotypes can be both positive (“women are warm and nurturing”) or negative (“teenagers are lazy”). Stereotypes can lead to faulty beliefs, but they can also result in both prejudice and discrimination.

According to psychologist Gordon Allport, prejudice and stereo types emerge in part as a result of normal human thinking. In order to make sense of the world around us, it is important to sort information into mental categories. “The human mind must think with the aid of categories,” Allport explained. “Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibly avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it. ” This process of categorization applies to the social world as well, as we sort people into mental groups based on factors such as age, sex and race.

However, researchers have found that while when it comes to categorizing information about people, we tend to minimize the differences between people within groups and exaggerate the differences between groups. In one classic experiment, participants were asked to judge the height of people shown in photographs. People in the experiment were also told that:

“In this booklet, the men and women are actually of equal height. We have taken care to match the heights of the men and women pictured. That is, for every woman of a particular height, somewhere in the booklet there is also a man of that same height. Therefore, in order to make as accurate a height judgment as possible, try to judge each photograph as an individual case; do not rely on the person’s sex.”

In addition to these instructions, a $50 cash prize was offered to whoever made the most accurate judgments of height. Despite this, participants consistently rated the men as being a few inches taller than the women. Because of their prejudgment that men are taller than women, the participants were unable to dismiss their existing categorical beliefs about men and women in order to judge the heights accurately.

Researchers have also found that people tend to view members of outside groups as being more homogenous than members of their own group, a phenomenon referred to as the out-group homogeneity bias. This perception that all member of an out-group are alike holds true of all groups, whether based on race, nationality, religion, age or other naturally occurring group affiliation.

Ways to Reduce Prejudice

In addition to looking at the reasons why prejudice occurs, researchers have also explored different ways that prejudice can be reduced or even eliminated. Training people to become more empathetic to members of other groups is one method that has shown considerable success. By imaging themselves in the same situation, people are able to think about how they would react and gain a greater understanding of other people’s actions.

Other techniques that are used to reduce prejudice include:

Passing laws and regulations that require fair and equal treatment for all groups of people.

Gaining public support and awareness for anti-prejudice social norms.

Making people aware of the inconsistencies in their own beliefs.

Increased contact with members of other social groups.

Examples of Discrimination

World War II – In Germany and German-controlled lands, Jewish people had to wear yellow stars to identify themselves as Jews. Later, the Jews were placed in concentration camps by the Nazis.

Racial discrimination in South Africa. Apartheid (literally “separateness”) was a system of racial segregation that was enforced in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.  Non-white people where prevented from voting and lived in separate communities.

Age discrimination is discrimination against a person or group on the grounds of age.

Gender Discrimination: In Western societies while women are often discriminated against in the workplace, men are often discriminated against in the home and family environments.  For instance after a divorce women receive primary custody of the children far more often than men. Women on average earn less pay than men for doing the same job

The Difference Between Prejudice and Discrimination

A prejudiced person may not act on their attitude.  Therefore, someone can be prejudiced towards a certain group but not discriminate against them.  Also, prejudice includes all three components of an attitude (affective, behavioral and affective), whereas discrimination just involves behavior.

An extreme example of prejudice and discrimination would be the Nazi’s mass murder of Jews in the Second World War, or the killings of Catholics by Protestants and Protestants by Catholics.

There are four main explanations of prejudice and discrimination:

1. Authoritarian Personality

2. Realistic Conflict Theory – Robbers Cave

3. Stereotyping

4. Social identity Theory

My prejudice

I was born and raised in India. In India people are discriminated and showed prejudice based on their color.

Skin Color Paradox

The Skin Color Paradox refers to the fact that no matter how differently African Americans are treated based on their skin color, their political and cultural attitudes about “blackness” as a form of identity and their feelings of relatedness and solidarity with other blacks tend to remain consistent. Although light-skinned blacks receive many socioeconomic advantages over dark-skinned blacks, who have much more punitive relationships with the criminal justice system and greatly diminished prestige, and although blacks are aware of this disparity in treatment and status, both light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks have similar political attitudes towards discrimination and race solidarity.[18]

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Political scientists would suggest that skin color is a characteristic perhaps as equally important as religion, income, and education, which is why this paradox is so surprising, but studies show that skin color has no real bearing on actual political preference. Affirmative action is another example of the paradox between colorism on the one hand and political preference on the other. Studies show that most African Americans that benefit from Affirmative action come from families that are better educated and more well off, and historically this means that the lighter-skinned portion of the black race is receiving the majority of the aid, making it appear as if the race as a whole is being benefited. Yet beneficiaries of this special treatment tend to hold on to their political identification with “blackness.” [18]

When I was in school, I had the nick name ‘blackly’. That was the common name by every one use to call me. when ever it comes to sports or group activities, I was picked last. Its like blacks don’t hang out with whites. They have to only make friends with there own kind of people, the other black kids.

Conformity as an Explanation of Prejudice and Discrimination

Influences that cause individuals to be racist or sexist, for example, may come from peers parents and group membership.  Conforming to social norms means people adopt the “normal” set of behavior(s) associated with a particular group or society.

The interpersonal approach to prejudice Ideas about prejudice which look at processes within groups of people focus on stereotyping, discussed earlier, and conformity tosocial and cultural norms.

Social norms – behavior considered appropriate within a social group – are one possible influence on prejudice and discrimination. People may have prejudiced beliefs and feelings and act in a prejudiced way because they are conforming to what is regarded as normal in the social groups to which they belong:

The effect of Social Norms on Prejudice

Minard (1952) 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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 (1959) 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.

A study by Rogers and Frantz (1962) found that immigrants to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) 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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