Social Psychology: Interpersonal and Group Perspectives
In our textbook, prejudice is defined as: ” a form of thinking whereby an individual forms an unfavorable attitude directed towards groups of people, based on insufficient or incorrect evidence about these groups”. Prejudice has been a part of society for as long as society has been. There are many different theories on the reasons for why people form prejudices. The theory of social categorization states that it is human nature to put people into categories based on certain characteristics. Which is also how we form stereotypes. Stereotypes give us a preconceived notion of how people of a certain group are going to act before we have experienced it firsthand. Basically, stereotypes are generalizations. They may apply to some members of a particular group but definitely not everyone. Another theory, illusory correlation, states that we tend to notice unusual behavior that occurs in minority groups rather than the same behavior that would occur in a majority group. The theory that I find most interesting is the social-identity theory, which states that people are prejudice in order to increase there self-esteem by believing that other groups are inferior to them.
After reading about all the different reasons for prejudice, I believe that it is a combination of all the theories mentioned above. I also strongly believe that the way a person is brought up strongly ties into their beliefs. If a child is brought up listening to his/hers parents talking negatively about a certain group of people it often leads to the child having the same beliefs as their parents. Another possible cause is if someone has a bad or traumatizing experience. For instance, if someone is robbed by a person of a different race they may than believe that everyone of that race is a thief and therefore they form a prejudice against that group of people.
Experience is an important factor in why some people become prejudice or not. Imagine you have grown up on a farm in Idaho your entire life. You have never seen or met an African American person first hand, but your whole life you have been told that they are terrible people who deal drugs and murder innocent people. Although they have never experienced them firsthand, automatically this person will have a negative outlook on that group of people. The point I am trying to make is that your different experiences and what you have been taught plays a big role in the prejudices that you will form. Usually if you are immersed by all different kinds of people and have known people from all different cultures, you will tend to have a more open mind. Ignorance is the biggest reason for why we form prejudices in the first place.
If we think back to the fifties and sixties, the amount of prejudice and racial discrimination has been reduced dramatically. However, as much as society tries to stress the importance of equality there is still a great amount of discrimination still going on in the world. So, how can we reduce prejudice effectively? I believe that a major part in this process is educating people from young ages about prejudice and how they need to be open to all types of people. Schools need to be culturally diversified so that child can experience other types of people firsthand. I know that isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when we put into perspective financial situations and where schools are located, but I think it is important that from a young age that people experience all types of cultures. Another way to educate people is by stressing that people are all different, whether it is from the way they dress or they way that they talk. Instead of looking down at other people’s differences we need to be taught to celebrate them.
In conclusion, I believe that prejudice is something that still plagues our society. I feel that it has definitely has improved over time and if things keep progressing, prejudice could possibly cease to exist in the future. As long as we keep educating our children and society, I think we are heading towards the right track.