Sociology and Psychological Prejudice
According to “Causes of Prejudice” by Vincent N. Parrillo, there are many causes to this complex phenomenon. Many social scientists have attempted to identify the causes of prejudice, but no single factor is to blame. Prejudice happens all around the world every second of every day. During this essay I am going to address the possible causes of this phenomena by looking at the psychology approach as well as the sociological standpoints to this problem in our world. I will also address the question: “Will prejudice ever cease to exist in our world?
This question is very controversial, but through observation the answer is obvious. The main reason I want to address this question as the main topic of my essay is because I want more than anything to be optimistic about us as a civilization to be able to get rid of prejudice. Prejudice hurts people every single day. I see it on campus all this time, as well as hear it as a common conversation for those around me. I have also been a victim of prejudice. Some forms for prejudice are good but most are bad and meant to hurt the targeted group. Every person and every group has been victims of prejudice at one point or another.
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Hopefully I will find through this essay that we can one day get rid of the world’s prejudices. “Prejudice is the glass through which most things are seen and judged. ” This quote by Edward Counsel, a past public service head and surveyor in Tasmania, shows how strong prejudice is in our world today. Whether it is through ethnocentrism, stereotyping, socialization, etc. people fall victim or victimize another through this phenomenon regularly. For most, it is just a part of life or the way they were brought up, and it just comes naturally to think this way.
Prejudice is defined as: “a system of negative beliefs, feelings, and action orientations regarding a certain group or groups of people. ” There are many different opinions on how prejudice came to be. There is the psychological approach to the idea, which centers on just one person and discusses how this person might have developed a prejudice. There is also the sociological approach which reviews why a group might develop a prejudice towards another. When reviewing how prejudice came to be, we can use these to judge if prejudice will always be a part of our lives, which make the origins of prejudice very important for inding ways to reduce or rid our world of it.
The psychological reasons for prejudice are split into three main categories when reviewing why someone might think in a prejudice way; behavioristic, cognitive, and psychoanalytic. Behavioristic focuses on areas like imitation and conditioning. This could be related to someone being prejudice because that person was raised to believe that particular way. Cognitive focuses on perceived similarity-dissimilarity of beliefs. Lastly psychoanalytic focuses on specific personality characteristics. Psychologists use this base of knowledge to then focus on other broader aspects of prejudice.
Another psychology aspect that helps define the cause of prejudice are the levels of prejudice. The cognitive level of prejudice focuses on what some think about opposing groups or people. Thinking that a group you belong to is better than all others is something called ethnocentrism, which is a great cause of prejudice. This is usually a result of that fact that most people are raised to believe that their group is the best, which could also fall under behavioral prejudice. This type of prejudice is the rejection of certain people solely on the basis of their membership in a group.
This leads to the very popular example of minorities being usually looked down upon. Characteristics like violent, dirty, immoral, and being prone to crime are examples of this. I see examples of this on campus every day. Racist jokes are a common example. We hear these jokes from our friends, neighbors, and in the media. The next level of prejudice is the emotional level of prejudice. Psychologists use this when someone has a type of prejudice that arouses feeling when the group is present. An example of this type of prejudice is feeling unsafe just because you are with a person of different color or ethnicity.
The last level, the action-oriented level of prejudice, can be either aggressive or non-aggressive and either positive or negative. This is the most extreme level. Examples of this level are usually violent, but can also mean someone is passive towards the targeted group. The next type of psychological prejudice is self-justification. This usually includes denigrating a person or group to justify maltreatment of them. There are many examples of this. An older example took place during the Vietnam war. Soldiers killed 300 civilians which included children and woman.
Another more recent one is terrorism. When terrorists kill civilians, they justify it with religion. Other types of psychological prejudices include the attribution theory and groupthink which can turn into things like stereotyping. Attribution theory explains how we sometimes make things automatically be true because of observation. If we see someone who is lost in an area that is easy to navigate we might call that particular person stupid, even though they might be very smart. I have seen this in action countless times. On campus one example I see a lot on the weekend is girls in skimpy dresses.
They are automatically seen by some as being “dirty” or “sluts,” even though they might not be at all. Groupthink is the tendency to think alike and suppress dissent. Some symptoms of groupthink are an illusion of invulnerability, self-censorship, and pressure to conform. Groupthink can be a good thing, but it can also very easily lead to prejudices of other groups. All these aspects can lead to stereotypes or violence. Stereotypes are a summary impression of a group of people in which all members in the group are viewed as sharing a common trait or traits.
Some common examples are; Jewish people are greedy, Minorities are violent, Blonds are stupid, etc. Psychological standpoints like these point in the direction of sociology of prejudice, in which we focus on a group as a whole. The sociology of prejudice is how we analyze groups. A few main aspects of this are socialization, social norms, and economic competition. The socialization process is: “the process in which individuals acquire the values, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of their culture or subculture, including religion, nationality, and class. This leads to big groups that usually have a sense of ethnocentrism, which will lead to prejudice. Economic competition shows how class can also be a big role on causes of prejudice as well as how people tend to be more hostile towards those when there security is threatened. An example of this is an upper class family being afraid of being robbed by a few blue collar men. All of these aspects of sociological and psychological prejudice make one ask the question if prejudice will always be around. Will prejudice always be a part of our lives?
This question cannot have a definite answer, since there is no true way of knowing. When reviewing all the reasons we have prejudice in our world, it is easy to see that it will always be around. Sadly, it seems prejudice is a human nature, like love or fear. Prejudice is stronger now than it has ever been. Because we are moving from a type 0 to a type 1 civilization globally, right now is a time where we see a lot of prejudice. A type 0 civilization is one that is cut off from each other. A type 1 society is a global civilization.
A business like McDonalds would be an example of type 1 because they are all over the world. Modern technology like the cell phone is also making us able to become more like a type 1 civilization. If you think about it, at this stage of humanity we are able to connect and talk to each other. This is a very good thing, but it also leads to more prejudice. Back in the dark ages of humanity, we were split off into our own groups. Now that we are connected, there is a lot more diversity. Looking into the future there will always be prejudice in my mind.
Even if we all believed in the same thing, looked the same, and talked the same, it is just human nature to pick out things to be prejudice about. As humans we need to be in groups that are like ourselves and that will always lead to groups not liking those that are different from them. Therefore it is impossible to ever get rid of prejudice all together. There are however ways to reduce it. To reduce prejudice, there are four things that need to happen. First, both sides must have equal status, economic opportunities, and power. Second, authorities and community institutions must provide moral, legal, and economic support to both sides.
Third, both sides must have many opportunities to work and socialize together formally and informally. Lastly, both sides must cooperate, working together for a common goal. If these things can be accomplished we would easily see a big reduce in prejudice. Reducing prejudice is an act that will take a lot of work, but hopefully in the future we will be able to make this come true. I especially hope we can. Prejudice hurts, especially when the target is you. I see so much prejudice in the world today, one day I hope I see absolutely none.