Causes of Prejudice and Reducing it in Society

A judgment or opinion made without adequate knowledge; to Prejudge, to pass judgement or form premature opinion. We can break the word prejudice down into two parts to give clearer understanding of its meaning, Pre is before and judice is to make judgement, so it is a negative preconceived judgement on an individual or group prior to seeking full knowledge or understanding about them.Prejudice effects many aspects of today’s society. Racism, sexism and homophobia are all examples of discrimination against a group that they may feel does not fit in to their norms in society.This can stretch further to prejudice against single parents, students, the elderly, the disabled, Goths, Emo’s, basically any group can be subjected to a form of prejudice. These negative preconceived ideas affect the way we treat people on a day to day basis.It is fair to say that most people would like to think they are tolerant of others and are not prejudice but it is unlikely that these people have no prejudice at all, it is inevitable that certain groups would not personally appeal to everyone and we may be drawn to other groups for company.The affective element involves feelings in relation to a certain group, these feelings could include anger, disgust, intimidation or even hate. The behavioural element involves actions taken to express these feelings, for instance an individual may avoid a certain group or individual belonging to a group, they may become abusive either verbally or physically, in extreme circumstances this discrimination can lead to such atrocities as the Holocaust where millions of Jews were exterminated.The media has a massive impact on our opinions of others.It may not be that someone expressing prejudice has had direct contact or experience of a group or individual from a group but they may have formed opinions based on propaganda, parental influences, authoritative figures, peer pressure or ignorance. The social learning theory suggests that negative thoughts or prejudices are learnt from society, for example parents, friends or colleagues. We are not born with negative thoughts/ preconceived ideas for others therefore it must be a learnt ideation.Psychology gives two main approaches to describe the ‘prejudice’ phenomenon, with many psychologist contributing with studies regarding prejudice for example; The Robber’s cave, Sherif (1956). This looked at whether prejudice could be created within a group. Social Factors of prejudice suggests that prejudice is a result of group interaction. Sherif conducted an experiment in 1956 to promote the theory suggesting that “when groups interact with one another they will inevitably generate attitudes towards each other”.The Robbers Cave experiment took a group of carefully selected boys, with no known hostile attitudes towards each other, they split the group and introduced competition between the groups to observe the ‘natural and spontaneous development of group organisation and attitudes. ’ This is known as minimal group theory. Individual factors involved in prejudice theories suggests a “sick person model”, suggesting that prejudice is an individual occurrence relating back to unresolved childhood memories or trauma.Freud’s work with psycho-analysis on this was a major influence, that conflicts in ones childhood creates a damaged adult personality. Also theories of the authoritarian figure by Adorno et al (1950) brought the suggestion of projection of unresolved past (childhood) experiences onto minority group. The down side to this theory is that it does not explain group prejudice, it implies that prejudice is an individual process and isolated to having a sick personality.Reduction of prejudice is vital for social integration and acceptance. Prejudice has reduced over the years in many aspects, as we as a society become more acceptant of others prejudice should reduce, but there will always be a victimised group within society which is outcast. Homosexuals could not be openly gay twenty years ago but now it is seen as an acceptable part of society, although there is still animosity towards minority groups such as homosexuals they are not so widespread and outwardly visible.There are several ways of reducing prejudice within society on both an individual and social level. Ignorance has a massive impact on peoples thoughts and opinions of others as many of their opinions of others are uninformed and uneducated. Education is a vital part of reducing any kind of animosity. Schools, parents and other authoritarian figures can take an active role in educating young people about minority groups to encourage acceptance, cultural awareness within schools can be very beneficial in the acceptance process.Opinions of parents are a major influence on a children’s attitudes towards those who appear to be different to themselves, so education is not only appropriate for young people but re-education of old-school thoughts is a necessary action. Integration with other groups is very important to build understanding and empathy between cultures. Also communication is vital to encourage understanding and time to allow these things to take place, attitudes cannot change overnight.Encouraging the pursuit of common (superordinate) goals, can reduce divisions between groups, if mixed groups have a common goal to work towards they are more likely to pull together and put differences aside for the greater gain of the group. All these are options for aiding the reduction of prejudice but time, effort and desire on the part of everyone is required to achieve this reduction, but it is reasonable to say that even though prejudice can be reduced it will never be extinct; there will always be an element of prejudice within society.