PREJUDICE: THE UBIQUITOUS SOCIAL PHENOMENON
• Prejudice is ubiquitous; it affects all of us—majority group
members as well as minority. People are prejudiced against many aspects
of identity: nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference,
religion, appearance, physical state, and even professions and hobbies.
A. Prejudice and Self-Esteem
• Prejudice is dangerous, fostering negative consequences from lowered self-esteem to genocide.
• Clark and Clark (1947) showed that African-American children as
young as 3 were already convinced that it was not desirable to be
black, choosing to play with white rather than black dolls. This
evidence led to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools.
• Goldberg (1968) showed that women had learned to consider
themselves intellectually inferior to men, rating the same article
higher when it was written by “John McKay” than by “Joan McKay.”
B. A Progress Report
• Over the past decades, blatant discrimination has been reduced;
the previous two findings no longer replicate. However, prejudice still
exists in subtle—and sometimes blatant—forms.
• Prejudice is an attitude and thus has affective, cognitive, and behavioral components.
• Prejudice is a hostile or negative attitude toward a
distinguishable group of people based solely on their membership in that
group. Prejudiced people direct their prejudice towards members of the
group as a whole, ignoring distinguishing characteristics.
A. Stereotypes: The Cognitive Component
• Journalist Walter Lippman introduced the term stereotype in 1922. A stereotype
is a generalization about a group of people in which identical
characteristics are assigned to virtually all members of the group,
regardless of actual variation among the members. Stereotypes are not
necessarily emotionally laden and do not necessarily lead to
discrimination. Frequently stereotyping is merely a way to simplify a
complex world—Allport’s (1954) “law of least effort.”
1. Sports, Race, and Attributions
• The potential abuse engendered by stereotyping can be subtle as
well as blatant, and involve positive as well as negative
characteristics (e.g., the stereotype that African-Americans are good
basketball players). The abuse involves ignoring the overlap of
distributions and ignoring individual differences in characteristics.
For example, Stone, Perry, & Darley (1997) found that those students
who believed a student was African-American rated him as having better
athletic ability than those who thought he was white, who rated him as
having greater “basketball sense.”
2. Stereotypes, Attribution, and Gender
• Gender stereotypes are still pervasive in our society. Women
are seen as more nurturant and less assertive than men; this may be due
to their involvement in the homemaker role. Evolutionary psychologists
argue that the difference is due to a basis in the behaviors required
for reproductive success. Whatever the cause of the difference, this
stereotype does have some basis in truth. Work by Eagly, Wood, and Swim
shows that there are indeed behavioral differences between men and women
such that women are more concerned with the welfare of others and men
are more independent and dominant.
• Nonetheless, gender stereotyping often does depart from reality
and can cut deeply. For example, people tend to see men’s ability and
women’s motivation as responsible for their success, and men’s lack of
effort and women’s lower ability as responsible for failure. These
results, originally found in the 1970s, continue to be replicated in
work in the late 1990s.
• Research shows that girls are more likely to blame themselves
for their failures, and boys are likely to blame bad luck. Jacobs and
Eccles (1992) showed that daughters of women who held gender stereotypic
beliefs were most likely to hold such self-defeating beliefs
B. Discrimination: The Behavioral Component
• Discrimination is an unjustified negative or harmful
action towards a member of a group, simply because of his or her
membership in that group. For example, Bond, DiCandia, & McKinnon
(1988) compared how white vs. black patients in a psychiatric hospital
(run by an all-white staff) were treated. They found that, in the first
30 days of a stay, there appeared to be an assumption that blacks would
be more violent than whites, as their offenses were more likely to be
treated with physical restraints or drugs (Figure 13–1). However,
eventually the staff did notice that there was no racial difference in
violent incidents and began to treat whites and blacks equally.
1. Discrimination against Homosexuals
In a study by Hebl et al. (2002) confederates applied for jobs in
the community. In some job interviews the confederates portrayed
themselves as homosexuals and in other interviews they did not. Hebl
found that in the cases where the confederates were portrayed as
homosexuals the potential employers were less verbally positive and
spent less time interviewing them. However, the employers did not
formally discriminate against them (e.g., not calling them back as often
for follow-up interviews as the other candidates).
WHAT CAUSES PREJUDICE?
• Whether or not there is a biological root to prejudice is
unknown; in any case, it is clear that prejudice occurs between
biologically similar people who hold different beliefs.
• Prejudices are easy to learn, although childhood prejudices are
not necessarily maintained. For example, Rohan and Zanna (1996) found
the greatest similarity of beliefs for parents and their children with
egalitarian values. Children whose parents hold prejudices may be
exposed to competing views and not hold their parents’ prejudices.
• A schoolteacher (Jane Elliot) in Riceville, Iowa, divided her
class by eye color, telling the blue-eyed students that they were better
than the brown-eyed students and giving them special privileges; in
less than half an hour, the formerly cohesive class was split along
eye-color lines, with the blue-eyed students taunting and punishing the
others, and the brown-eyed students feeling so low that their academic
performance was depressed. The next day, the eye-color roles were
reversed, and the day after that, the class was debriefed. Even 20 years
later, the students claimed the exercise had a life-long impact (see
Eye of the Storm and A Class Divided in the film list).
A. The Way We Think: Social Cognition
• One explanation for prejudice is that it is the inevitable
byproduct of categorization, schemas, heuristics, and faulty memory
processes in processing information.
1. Social Categorization: Us versus Them
• The first step in prejudice is the creation of group
categorizations. Once we have mental categories, we group stimuli into
them by similarities, downplaying differences between members of a group
and exaggerating differences between members of different groups.
2. In-group bias
• In-group bias is the especially positive feelings and
special treatment we reserve for people we have defined as being part of
our in-group (the group with which a person identifies and of which he
or she feels a member), and the negative feelings and unfair treatment
we reserve for others simply because we have defined them as being in
the out-group (groups which an individual does not identify with).
• Tajfel postulates that the underlying motive behind
in-group bias is self-esteem maintenance and enhancement. To study this,
he invented the minimal group paradigm, in which arbitrary groups were
formed by putting strangers together on the basis of trivial criteria.
Even in these minimal groups, people still displayed in-group bias by
rating in-group members more highly, liking them better, and rewarding
them more. People even preferred to take less money as a reward for
their own group, if it meant beating the out-group, rather than taking
more money but being beat by the out-group.
3. Out-Group Homogeneity
• Another consequence of social categorization is the out-group homogeneity
bias, the perception that those in the out-group are more similar
(homogenous) to each other than they really are, as well as more similar
than the members of the in-group are (i.e., the belief that “they’re
all alike”). Quattrone and Jones (1980) showed that Rutgers and
Princeton students watching videos of other students (purportedly from
Rutgers or Princeton) making decisions would judge the student’s
selection as typical of others at his school when the person went to the
rival school but not if they went to the student’s own school (Figure
4. The Failure of Logic
• There are two reasons why it is almost impossible to get
a person holding a deep-seated prejudice to change his or her mind.
First, it is primarily the emotional aspect of attitudes that makes a
prejudiced person hard to argue with; logic is not effective in
countering emotions—people will ignore or distort any challenge to their
belief. Second, people with strong prejudices have a firmly established
schema for the target group(s); this will lead them to pay attention
to, and recall more often, information that is consistent with their
beliefs than that which is inconsistent. Thus stereotypes become
relatively impervious to change.
5. The Persistence of Stereotypes
• Table 13–1 displays the beliefs of students about
Americans, Japanese, Jews, and African-Americans from 1933 to 1969. Over
30 years, the stereotypes remained fairly stable, becoming somewhat
less negative. By 1969 many students felt uncomfortable with the task
and only agreed to do it if it was made clear they were displaying their
knowledge of societal stereotypes and not their own beliefs.
6. The Activation of Stereotypes
• Greenberg and Pyszczynski (1985) conducted a study to
find out whether knowing a stereotype will affect the processing of
information about a target person even for unprejudiced people.
Observers watched a staged debate between a white and a black student;
which student performed better in the debate was manipulated.
Additionally, a planted confederate in the audience either made a racist
remark, a nonracist remark, or no remark about the black student. When
this student was the poorer debater, the racist remark activated the
negative stereotype and led to lower ratings of him than in the other
conditions (Figure 13.4). Similarly, Henderson-King and Nisbett (1996)
found that it took only one negative action by one African-American to
activate the negative stereotype against blacks and discourage
participants from wanting to interact with a different African-American.
These findings suggest that stereotypes exist in most of us and are
easily activated to have negative effects on the perception and
treatment of out-group members.
7. Automatic and Controlled Processing of Stereotypes
• Patricia Devine (1989) developed a theory about how
stereotypical and prejudiced beliefs affect information processing. Her
theory is based on the distinction between automatic and controlled
information processing. According to her theory, when we process
information about another, a two-step process takes place: first the
stereotypes that we know about are automatically triggered, then in the
controlled process we decide whether or not to accept the stereotype;
unprejudiced people will use the controlled process to override it.
However, if a person is distracted, overwhelmed, or not attending, the
controlled processing will not be initiated, and the stereotype will
prevail (see Figure 13–5). In a test of this theory, Devine showed that
high and low prejudiced Ss showed equal knowledge of the stereotype of
African-Americans; in a second part of the study, she displayed either
stereotypical or nonstereotypical words to Ss subliminally; then she
asked them to rate an ambiguous story about “Donald.” Those Ss who had
been subliminally exposed to the stereotypical words rated Donald more
harshly, regardless of level of prejudice. Finally, in a third study,
Devine showed that, when processing consciously, high prejudice students
listed significantly more negative words than low prejudice students in
describing black Americans.
8. The Justification-Suppression Model of Prejudice
Crandall and Eshleman (2003) offer a model of the expression of
prejudice. They content that people struggle between the urge to express
prejudice and their need to maintain a positive self-concept. If we
find valid justification for holding a negative attitude toward a group,
we can act against them and still feel as though we are not bigots.
9. The Illusory Correlation
• An illusory correlation is the tendency to see
relationships, or correlations, between events that are actually
unrelated. Illusory correlations are most likely to occur when the
events or people are distinctive or conspicuous; minority group members
are so by definition. Once formed, an illusory correlation increases
attention to confirming information and decreases attention to
disconfirming information. The media create illusory correlations by
their stereotypical presentations of women and minorities.
10. Can We Change Stereotypical Beliefs?
• Kunda and Oleson (1997) found that when people are
presented with examples that strongly challenge their existing
stereotypes, they tend to dismiss the disconfirming example as “the
exception that proves the rule,” and some actually strengthen their
• Nonetheless, there are some situations when stereotypes can change.
B. How We Assign Meaning: Attributional Biases
1. Dispositional versus Situational Explanations
• Stereotypes are negative dispositional attributions.
Thomas Pettigrew has called our making dispositional attributions about a
whole group of people the ultimate attribution error.Bodenhausen
(1988) found that students were more likely to find a defendant guilty
of a crime (ignoring extenuating circumstances) when his name was Carlos
Ramirez than when it was Robert Johnson. In an earlier study,
Bodenhausen and Wyer (1985) had found that when a crime was consistent
with a group stereotype, Ss were less lenient in parole decisions,
ignoring other relevant information, than when the crime was
inconsistent with a group stereotype. Thus when people act in a way that
confirms our stereotype, we make dispositional attributions and ignore
possible situational causes.
2. Stereotype Threat Steele and J. Aronson (1995) have shown that at least one major contributing factor is situational. They define stereotype threat
as the apprehension experienced by members of a minority group that
they might behave in a manner than confirms an existing cultural
stereotype. This worry in turn interferes with their ability to perform
well in these situations. For example, Steele and Aronson found that
when white and black students were told that a difficult test they were
taking was just in the development phase and thus not valid, there were
no differences in performance; but when the students were told that the
same test was a valid measure of intellectual ability, the blacks
performed more poorly than the whites.
• Stereotype threat applies to gender as well as race.
Spencer and Steele (1996) found a similar phenomenon among women taking
math tests. Even white males can display the phenomenon—when compared
to Asian males on a math exam (J. Aronson et al., 1999, 2000).
• The more conscious individuals are of the pertinent
stereotype, the greater the effect on their performance (Brown &
• Research indicates that providing a counter-stereotypic
mind-set (e.g., I’m a student at a top university) can eliminate the
effects of stereotype threat.
3. Expectations and Distortions
• When an out-group member behaves in a way that
disconfirms our stereotypes, we are likely to make a situational
attribution for his or her performance, leaving the stereotype intact.
For example, Ickes et al. (1982) told college men that the person they
would interact with was either extremely friendly or extremely
unfriendly. In both conditions, the Ss went out of their way to be nice
to their partners and their partner returned their friendliness.
However, those who expected their partner to be unfriendly explained his
friendly behavior away as being a phony response due to their own
4. Blaming the Victim
• Blaming the victim is the tendency to blame
individuals (make dispositional attributions) for their victimization;
ironically, it is motivated by a desire to see the world as a fair and
just place where people get what they deserve. Believing that people get
what they deserve leads one to blame victims for their outcomes.
Negative attitudes toward the poor, including blaming them for their own
plight, are more prevalent among individuals who display strong belief
in a just world (Furnham & Gunter, 1984).
5. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
• The self-fulfilling prophecy is a process in
which we find confirmation and proof for our stereotypes by unknowingly
creating stereotypical behavior in out-group members through our
treatment of them.
• Word, Zanna, and Cooper (1974) conducted a set of
experiments that demonstrates the phenomenon. In the first study, they
asked white undergraduates to interview job applicants who were either
white or black. The students tended to display discomfort when
interviewing the African-Americans: for example, they sat further away,
stammered, and terminated the interview earlier. In a second experiment,
the researchers varied the behavior of the interviewers so that they
acted towards a job candidate either the way that the interviewers had
acted towards whites or the way that the interviewers had acted towards
blacks in the first study. They found that those applicants who had been
interviewed in the way that African-Americans had been interviewed were
judged to be more nervous and less effective than the others (Figure
C. Prejudice and Economic Competition: Realistic Conflict Theory
• Realistic conflict theory is the theory that limited resources lead to conflict between groups and result in increased prejudice and discrimination.
1. Economic and Political Competition
• Several historical studies document that discrimination
against out-groups covaries with the scarcity of jobs or other
• Although correlational data is supportive of the theory,
it still does not allow a causal inference. To allow this, an
experiment is essential, such as that conducted by Sherif et al. (1961).
In the classic “Robber’s Cave” experiment, two groups of 12-year-old
boys at a summer camp were randomly assigned to one of two groups, the
Eagles or the Rattlers. In the first phase of the study, the groups were
isolated and placed in situations designed to increase group
cohesiveness. In the second phase of the study, the researchers set up a
series of competitive activities in which the two groups were pitted
against each other. Hostility between the two groups rapidly escalated.
In the next phase of the study, researchers tried to eliminate hostility
by eliminating competitive games and increasing contact. This failed to
reduce the hostilities (the final resolution follows later in the
2. The Role of the Scapegoat
• Scapegoating, the tendency for individuals, when
frustrated or unhappy, to displace aggression onto groups that are
disliked, visible, and relatively powerless, may occur when people are
frustrated (for example, by scarcity of resources) but there is no clear
target to blame the frustration on. It may occur even in the absence of
• Such scapegoating may be seen in recent years with homosexuality.
D. The Way We Conform: Normative Rules
• Through both explicit and implicit socialization, we are
trained in the norms of our culture. Stereotypes and prejudiced
attitudes are part of this normative package.
1. When Prejudice is Institutionalized
Institutionalized racism refers to the idea that racist attitudes
are held by the vast majority of us because we live in a society where
stereotypes and discrimination are the norm; institutionalized sexism
is the idea that sexist attitudes are held by the vast majority of us
for the same reason. In societies in which racism and sexism are
institutionalized, normative conformity leads to the tendency to
go along with the group in order to fulfill their expectations and gain
acceptance. Pettigrew (1958) argues that the greatest determinant of
prejudice is this slavish conformity to social norms. For example, he
showed that ministers in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the 1950s were
personally in favor of desegregation but kept these fears to themselves.
Other studies show that people’s prejudice and discrimination changes
when they move to an area with different norms, or even, in a study of
miners in West Virginia, when they are underground and when above. Over
the past 50 years, American norms for attitudes such as that towards
desegregation have changed drastically.
2. “Modern” Prejudice
• Although American norms have changed and the blatant expression of prejudice has diminished, prejudice is still with us. Modern racism
is prejudice revealed in subtle, indirect ways because people have
learned to hide prejudiced attitudes in order to avoid being labeled as
racist. For example, many parents protest against their children being
bussed only when the busing is interracial. Because of the nature of
modern prejudice, it can best be studied using subtle or unobtrusive
measures. For example, the bogus pipeline technique uses an
impressive-looking machine labeled as a lie detector; the machine is a
fake. People who are hooked up to the machine and believe that their
true attitudes can be detected showed higher levels of racism and sexism
than those completing the paper scales than white males.
3. Subtle and Blatant Prejudice in Western Europe
• Pettigrew and Meertens (1995) examined blatant and modern racism in
France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. They found that those who
scored as racist on both scales wanted to send immigrants back; those
who scored low on both wanted to improve their rights and were willing
to take actions to do so, and those who scored as nonracist on the
blatant scale but racist on the subtle scale did not want to take action
to send immigrants back but nor were they willing to support any
actions to help improve their rights.
E. Subtle Sexism
Subtle forms of prejudice can also be
directed toward woman. Many men have feelings of ambivalence toward
women and as Glick and Fiske (2001) have shown this ambivalence can take
one of two forms: hostile sexism or benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism suggests that women are inferior to men while benevolent sexism tends to idealize women romantically.
HOW CAN PREJUDICE BE REDUCED?
• The hope that prejudice can be reduced by education has proven naive. Change requires more.
A. The Contact Hypothesis
• The contact hypothesis is the idea that
merely bringing members of different groups into contact with each other
will erode prejudice. This idea lay at the basis of the 1954 Supreme
Court decision on school desegregation. For example, Deutsch and Collins
(1951) had shown that white and black families randomly assigned to an
integrated housing unit showed reductions in racism compared to those
assigned to segregated units. However, things did not work so smoothly
in school desegregation: there was tension, and, in more than half of
the studies, prejudice actually increased. In a quarter of the studies,
the self-esteem of African-American children was found to have decreased
after desegregation. Mere contact does not work.
B. When Contact Reduces Prejudice: Six Conditions
• Allport (1954) suggested that six conditions are necessary for inter-group contact to reduce prejudice: (1) mutual interdependence,
or the existence of situations where two or more groups need each other
and must depend on each other in order to accomplish a goal; (2) a
common goal that is important to both of them; (3) equal status of group
members; (4) having informal interpersonal contact; (5) multiple
contacts with several members of the out-group so that individuals can
learn that their beliefs are wrong; and (6) social norms in place that
promote equality. When these conditions are met, suspicious or even
hostile groups will reduce their stereotyping, prejudice, and
discrimination. Sherif’s Robber’s Cave study, described above,
ultimately resolved the intergroup hostility by fostering each of these
six conditions (Figure 13.7).
C. Why Early Desegregation Failed
• In most classrooms, the environment is very competitive; when minority
students who have had deficient preparation are bussed in, they are
guaranteed to lose the competition. The situation is ripe for the
creation of self-fulfilling prophecies by both majority and minority
group members. Thus Stephen (1978) found a general decrease in
self-esteem of minority students following desegregation. To change the
atmosphere of the classroom so that it meets the six conditions outlined
above, Aronson and his colleagues developed the jigsaw classroom. This
is a classroom setting designed to reduce prejudice and raise the
self-esteem of children by placing them in small desegregated groups and
making each child dependent on the other children in his or her group
to learn the course material and do well in the class. Formal studies
demonstrate that children in jigsaw classrooms perform better and show
greater increases in self-esteem than those in traditional classrooms;
further, they show more evidence of true integration and better
abilities to empathize with and see the world through the eyes of
D. Why Does Jigsaw Work?
• Gaertner et al. (1990) suggest that the
process is effective because it breaks down in-group and out-group
categorization and fosters the notion of the class as a single group.
• Another reason is that it places people in a “favor-doing” situation, which leads people to like those they do favors for.
• A third reason why the jigsaw process is
effective is that it encourages the development of empathy. Bridgeman
thus showed that 10-year-old students who had spent two months in a
jigsaw classroom were more likely to successfully take the perspective
of a story character and correctly answer questions from this
character’s point of view than were students who had not had the jigsaw
1. The Gradual Spread of Cooperative Learning
• The cooperative learning movement has been
widely accepted by researchers as one of the most effective ways of
improving race relations, building empathy, and improving instruction in
schools. However, the educational system, like all bureaucracies,
resists change, and the slowness of change can have tragic consequences.