Compare And Contrast Prejudice And Discrimination.

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Prejudice in society today seems to be unavoidable. It appears on the news, is portrayed in film and evident in the history books. Prejudice can be defined as a negative attitude toward a particular social group and all its members. A prejudice attitude involves making prejudgements about a person of a group and applying generic attributes (Hogg & Vaughan, 2004).

Allport (1945b) suggests that prejudice consists of three components.

Firstly a cognitive belief about the group, secondly a strong feeling must be evident about the group and qualities they possess and lastly the intention to act in a certain way towards the group (cited in Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). Prejudice is a problem is society as it can lead to discrimination toward members of a certain group. In the most extreme cases genocide is the ultimate expression of prejudice toward a group.

The most prominent example of this is the anti-Semitic actions of Germany in the Second World War.

The atrocities that took place at the hands of the German army were high in people’s minds and psychologists there after began taking an interest in the origins of prejudice and ways of reducing prejudice. Two approaches that have now become widely acknowledged are those of individual differences resulting in prejudice and inter-group theories of prejudice. Individual differences as a cause of prejudice is concerned with why some people are more prejudice than others, and whether it is because of a personality trait that causes these attitudes (Crisp & Turner, 2007).

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Causes Of Prejudice Essay

An authoritarian personality was on concept that was suggested by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson and Sanford (1950) in the wake of the holocaust (cited in Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). They believed that only those with a personality defect could be prejudice, these people were not only prejudice toward one particular social group but all minority groups. The authoritarian personality is defined by certain characteristics. Such as need for order, high respect for authority, displacement of anger onto weaker individuals and an obsession with status.

Thought these tendencies first developed in childhood with confusion over excessive harsh discipline from the parent (cited in Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). The child loves and hates their parent and this conflict cause stress which is then redirected toward weaker individuals around them while idealising those who represent the power and authority of their parent (Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). However, there are certain restrictions when considering personality explanations of prejudice. The main concern being that not every child brought up with excessive, harsh discipline then becomes prejudice.

This may be due to the person’s ability to control and regulate their prejudice. Specifically, in society today egalitarian values are emphasised and expected, so if a person feels they have acted in a way that displays prejudice then they may feel guilty. The individual has noticed a difference in the way they acted to their values causing the guilt; this guilt can be the motivation a person needs to change their behaviour and ultimately their prejudice attitude. This theory how there can be a variation in the amount of prejudice that people display but not the reasoning behind why individuals want to eliminate prejudice.

In general one of the problems of individual differences as a cause of prejudice is that is does not apply easily to large groups of people who are prejudice. For instance it is conceivable but unlikely that every person who is prejudice had a harsh disciplinary upbringing that results in an authoritarian personality (Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). There is a need of a cultural mentality to result in large scale prejudice such as the apartheid in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. Inter-group theories are able to address this issue.

Inter-group theories involve the categorizing of people into distinct groups. Primarily these groups are either ‘in-groups’, those which we belong to or ‘out-groups’, a group which we are not a member of (Crisp & Turner, 2007). Sherif, White and Harvey (1955) found that when people are divided into groups it created an environment in which group comparison and the desire to partake in competition was immediately evident. Shortly after the initial division a social identity develops and the introduction of competition caused heightened hostile behaviour (cited in Crisp & Turner, 2007).

Sherif’s (1955) findings support the theory of realistic group conflict theory. This theory suggests that prejudice is the result of competition for valuable resources (Crisp & Turner, 2007). For instance sexism in the work place could be an example of realistic group conflict theory because of the competition for the jobs and internal promotion. Employers are more likely to show favouritism for their own groups and derogation of the out groups in order to secure their own futures.

However Tajfel, Billig, Bundy, & Flament (1971) found that simply dividing people into groups caused prejudice and competition was not necessary. When participants were divided into groups based on the type of abstract painter they preferred they allocated those not in their group lower points, therefore displaying inter-group bias. This demonstrates the minimal condition for prejudice to occur; because as soon as we know that someone is in a different group to us we are likely to discriminate on that basis.

This may be due to the fact that when others are in the same group as us we think of them as similar to ourselves and those in the out-groups are different to us (Crisp & Turner, 2007). Tajfel and Turner (1979) devised the theory of social identification. They assumed that people wanted positive self-esteem and one contributor to self esteem is the groups which we belong to. Therefore, if the groups we belong to have a high status and are positively perceived then this boost our self esteem because as we are members of that group we should be perceived in the same way.

In this way it benefits our self esteem to improve the positive image of the group compared to the out-groups and so this is another way that prejudice could develop. Self categorization theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes,Reicher & Wetherell, 1987) is based on social identification but emphasises the cognitive approaches(cited in Crisp & Turner, 2007). The identification with a group causes one to depersonalise oneself in order to fit in with group norms and so become self-categorized (Crisp & Turner). Therefore, if the group norm is one which allows prejudice then individuals will also display this attribute.

One criticism of Tajfel (1971) was that the conditions were not minimal and there was some belief similarity which could explain the preferable treatment of the in group members (cited in Crisp & Turner,2007). The categories the participants were separated into were supposedly based on the preference of a painter and so perhaps had other aspects in common. To rectify this Tafjel replicated the study with some alterations. The participants knew that they were allocated to groups on a purely random basis. Even so, there was still inter-group bias.

However, the findings were not as large a number as in the previous study. Inter-group theories give a good account of how the groups we belong to influence our prejudice. However, we must remember that we have control over out thoughts and actions. Consequently, we can choose not to conform to group norms and also not to express prejudice. Individual differences in prejudice consider these aspects more. Prejudice is a complex multi faceted concept with many different contributing factors. The individual difference approach considers how personality affects individuals and the extent to which they express prejudice.

However, this approach does not explain large scale prejudice across cultures and other groups. The inter-group theories demonstrate the categorization of people into two main groups, the in and out groups. These theories give a more accepted explanation of prejudice. However, there are still short coming in these theories. For example the need for explanation as to why some people are resistant to the social conditions that should exert prejudice. Subsequently, the deduction is that explanations of prejudice need to consider both approaches to obtain the most informative and balanced conclusion.

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Compare And Contrast Prejudice And Discrimination.. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Compare And Contrast Prejudice And Discrimination.
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