|PSY 101 Social IV: Issues of Prejudice|
Prejudice as a Social Attitude
Prejudice: A negative attitude against members of a group
- In his groundbreaking 1954 book, The Nature of Prejudice, Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport argued: Prejudice = "antipathy based on a faulty & inflexible generalization" [antipathy = a deep-seated feeling of dislike or hostility]
- Faulty means it is based on error, lack of facts, rumor, incorrect conclusions
- Inflexible means it is very difficult to change
- Generalization means it extends to most or all members of the group
Discrimination: Behaving differently (often unfairly) toward members of a group.
- When a prejudicial attitude's behavioral tendency is actually acted upon, it becomes discrimination.
- Allport (1954) argues that discrimination falls within a hierarchy which express increasingly hostile levels of prejudicial beliefs
- Antilocution = negative verbal remarks against a person, group, or community, are made (in a public or private setting) and not addressed directly to the target, e.g., name calling, banter, jokes
- Avoidance = taking positive steps to evade or otherwise lessen contact with members of the group
- Discrimination = denying members of a group access to goods, services, and opportunities that are available to the public simply on the basis of being a member, e.g., denied housing or a job, not promoted, paid lower wage
- Attack = direct threats made against members of the group psychologically, physically, or verbally
- Extermination or exit from organization = removal of group members from an organization. In its most extreme form, actual killing of group members. Note that Allport was quite sensitive to the ways that Nazism in Germany built upon anti-Jewish prejudice and hostility to multiple groups which ultimately was expressed in the Holocaust.
Consider some of these prejudicial attitudes:
Where do such prejudicial attitudes come from?
- While demeaning racial/ethnic/other stereotypes seem to have diminished since the 1950s, they still remain. Recent experiences in the United States and elsewhere in the world have seen increases in such stereotypes.
- As highly accessible cognitive schemas, they are easily activated (even in those who are struggling against them).
- Very resistant to change.
- Reflect high level of subjectivity in person perception
- Duncan (1976) had white subjects evaluate a filmed TV interaction in which one person gets into an argument with another and gives the other person a slight shove. When the actor in the film was black, 73% of the white subjects called the shove "violent behavior". But, when the actor was white, only 13% of the white subjects called the shove "violent behavior."
2. Learning from parents and wider culture.
- Children may watch/hear their parents (observational learning) or receive positive feedback for their own prejudicial remarks (operant conditioning), e.g. laughing to jokes.
- Much of prejudicial attitudes are learned unconsciously
3. Biased attributions
- Fundamental Attribution Error: what others do is caused by personal qualities (but what I do is caused by circumstances). Hence, victims of violence or poverty are often thought to be the cause of their own misery.
The "Just World" Phenomenon
1. Story of the Woman and the Ferry
- Listen to the story
- Evaluate the responsibility for the woman's death using this schematic (most responsible = 1st; 2nd most responsible = 2nd; etc.)
Husband Wife Lover 1 Lover 2 Ferry Boat
2. The Just-World Phenomenon (notes & quotations below all taken from Andre & Velasquez, 1990)= a powerful tendency many people have to believe that "the world is an orderly, predictable, & just place and that people get what they deserve" ("What goes around, comes around"; "Karma is a bitch"; "You get what you deserve")
- This belief seems to stem from our need for our actions to have a predictable outcome. It assures us that we are actually able to affect what happens to ourselves.
- When we confront evidence that the world is unjust, we attempt to restore our sense of justice by either
- "helping the victim" or
- "by persuading ourselves that no injustice has occurred"
- Melvin Lerner's research in the early 1960s at the University of Waterloo (Canada) suggests that
- for many people, "beneficiaries deserve their benefits and victims their suffering"
- E.g., students believe that a student who won a cash lottery prize actually worked a harder than a student who didn't.
- E.g., students viewing videotapes which seem to show someone being shocked in a "learning experiment" had a lower opinion of that person if he/she had no way of ending or relieving the shock.
- In 1970s Zick Rubin (Harvard) found that Just-World beliefs were associated with
- more religious, authoritarian, & conservative beliefs
- more approval for social institutions and political leaders
- negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups, particularly the poor who are seen as the cause of their own poverty (vs. the world's economic system, war, or exploitation by others).
- Some later research has found that people who embrace Just World beliefs are also significantly anti-bullying. However, individuals with many types of severe illnesses are rated as less attractive than healthy people (except for those with cancer).
- Despite what Rubin found, you think that Just World beliefs today are any more likely by people who are political conservatives or liberals?
3. Application: Blaming the victim for their misfortune
- Why are people poor? sick? raped? battered?
Andre, C., & Velasquez, M. (1990, Spring). The just world theory. Issues in Ethics, 3(2). Markula Center for Applied Ethics: Santa Clara University. Santa Clara, CA. Retrieved 11/15/2011 from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v3n2/justworld.html
This page was originally posted on 11/17/04 and last updated on November 17, 2016