Social Psychology: Prejudice, Stereotypes and Discrimination in Society We live in a very cultural and ethnically diverse world that takes pleasure and celebrates our differences proudly whatever they may be. There are many beliefs and social practices that aren’t considered “socially acceptable” causing wrongful judgments because they are different from what you or I might know. Prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination are one of our biggest issues we face in today’s society. At one time or another, all of us will or have experienced the cruelty that follows this social injustice. This paper will discuss prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination in the context of social psychology; the magnitude of these behaviors; and possible propositions to enhance society’s attitude and judgments. Social psychologists differentiate among these by focusing on whether they involve feelings (affect), cognition, or behaviors (Feenstra, 2011). One of the first to come up with a definition of prejudice was a scholar by the name of William Hazlitt (Webster et al., 2010).” Prejudice in its ordinary and literal sense, is prejudging any questions without having sufficiently examined it, and adhering to our opinion upon it through ignorance, malice, or perversity, in spite of every evidence to the contrary (Hazlitt, 1932).” Now this is somewhat of an older definition from the early 19th century, but it still gives you the basic idea that prejudices hold negative attitudes towards others in a specific group. Stereotypes take a cognitive path and use generalizations or distortions of the truth about an individual or group. Discrimination refers to poor behavior and mistreatment of a group class to which others belong to.
Social psychology is about understanding individual behavior in a social context.
Baron, Byrne & Suls (1989) define social psychology as ....“the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior in social situations”. (p. 6).
It therefore looks at human behavior as influenced by other people and the social context in which this occurs.
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 byRogers 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.
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