What Is Prejudice?
- Negative feelings
- Stereotyped beliefs
- A tendency to discriminate against a stereotyped group
The word prejudice is of Latin origin. The prefix ‘pre’ means ‘before,’ while ‘judice’ stems from the same root as ‘judged.’ Although we usually link prejudice with negative feelings and prejudiced behavior like bigotry or racism, there many other types of social bias, including:
- Sexism: stereotyping based on gender.
- Religious prejudice: disliking a person/group solely based on their religious beliefs.
- Ageism: bias based on one’s age.
- Classism: prejudice against those of a certain social class.
- Homophobia: stereotyping people based on their LGBTQ+ sexual preference
- Xenophobia: prejudice against those from other countries.
Sometimes prejudice is outright and ‘in your face.’ Other times, prejudiced behavior is more subtle.
Prejudice Definition Vs. Stereotype Definition
When exhibiting prejudice, people tend to paint everyone in a group with the same brush. In other words, everyone who fits in a specific category is considered the same. Although we use the terms interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the prejudice psychology definition and that of a stereotype.
The stereotypes definition is an over-exaggeration that isn’t always true but has some merit based on experience. Stereotypes can be positive (for example, most people assume that all Asians are good at math). Prejudices, on the other hand, are almost always negative and aren’t based on reason or experience. They often are supported by a belief that certain people or groups have lesser worth or abilities.
Examples Of Prejudiced Statements Include:
- Because Ben is Jewish, he’s greedy with money.
- Lee should be put on the math team instead of Darius because Asians are smarter than W
- Hosea’s probably here illegally; he should be sent back to wherever he came from.
- Because Latonya is Black, she can play basketball but can’t swim.
- Donna is much too old to be hired as a bartender; she wouldn’t make as many sales as the younger women.
- Abdul is from Africa, so he probably grew up in a poor, remote area.
- Because Mr. Jones is gay, he shouldn’t be allowed to teach young children.
Where Does Prejudice Stem From?
Much research has been done about prejudice and why certain people are prone to this type of negative thinking. Below we will discuss several theories and research that explain how this is going on when prejudiced thoughts are at work. You’ll find that, while all are different, many have bits and pieces that overlap.
The Natural Theory
Although it is easy to categorize those who express prejudice as ‘bad,’ this judgment isn’t fair according to prejudice psychology. Definition aside, experts such as Gordon Allport chalk prejudice and stereotyping up to normal human thinking.
In his work, The Nature of Prejudice, Allport explains that, as early as five years old, we realize that we are a part of certain groups. These groups (i.e., gender, race, religion) are not of our choosing at this point, but are assigned to us. We also assume that the groups we are in are good. After all, we are a part of them.
Until we are a little older (age nine or so), we won’t be able to compare ourselves to other groups on a conscious level, but we will have already developed loyalty to our categories by then. We have also judged others and put them in boxes as well. This is the way our brains make sense of things.
Warmth and Competence: A Fiske Study
Other prejudiced psychology research study shows that people’s emotions are attached to prejudice and discrimination and not necessarily stereotypes. The American Psychological Association (APA) covered one such study conducted by Princeton University’s Susan Fiske, Ph.D. The APA holds that Fiske:
…and her colleagues have also found evidence that emotional prejudices of pity, envy, disgust, and pride exist across cultures and, through neuroimaging studies, that these four emotions may activate distinct parts of the brain. During the study, people were asked to rate certain groups based on two characteristics: warmth and competence. A chart of the responses can be found below.
|Warmth||Competence||Seen As||Attached Emotions|
|Seniors, people with disabilities, stay-at-home spouses||High||Low||Low status|
|Welfare recipients, low income people||Low||Low||Low status Competitive||Contempt, anger,
|Asians, Jewish people, rich people, feminists||Low||High||High status
|In-group (similar people) and allies||High||High||High status|
Prejudice And Personality
Some psychology experts believe that personality has a great deal to do with biases and negative feelings toward others that we would consider to be prejudiced. Psychology definition and research experts say that those with authoritarian personality types are more likely to struggle with prejudice than others. Common traits of authoritarians include:
- Strive for conformity, especially in a society
- Rigid beliefs/traditional values
- Total/extreme respect of authority
- Do not tolerate weakness in themselves/others
- Admires likeminded people/doesn’t trust outsiders
- Tend to blame and scapegoat others
These personality traits, when added together, make a person much more likely to hold prejudiced notions and discriminate against those who are different from them for no reason based on fact.
Although all of the factors and theories above surely play a role in prejudiced attitudes, most biased beliefs are actively spread through society. Remember Gordon Allport, the psychology definition guru, we discussed earlier? His finding supported the ‘learned’ theory as well, citing that children learn prejudice in one of two ways:
- Adopting the prejudice of their parents/family members
- By being raised in an environment that makes them suspicious or fearful. (Later, these fears are projected onto minority groups.)
This isn’t a simple process. Research has found that it takes the entire childhood period to ‘master’ prejudice and solidify these negative and harmful opinions. This means there is some hope for children who are being raised in prejudiced environments, but only if alternative viewpoints are offered before these biases take hold.
Stereotypes are harmful. These beliefs and opinions ignore that every person, regardless of the ‘categories’ they fall into, has abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and goals that have little to do with anyone else. In certain situations, stereotypes can be confirmed in individual instances. For example, some girls are bad at math. However, this doesn’t mean we can use the prejudiced nature behind these labels to negatively judge girls in general.
- Looking at our internal prejudices and combatting them with cold hard facts.
- Educating others about the prejudice psychology definition discussed here, especially younger generations in which the roots aren’t yet ‘deep.’
- Making laws that support equal rights and punish those who discriminate or harm others due to prejudice.
Perhaps you have experienced harmful prejudice in your community. Or maybe you have recently become aware of your own prejudice and want to correct them. In either case, an online therapist from BetterHelp can help you address your concerns. BetterHelp licensed professionals are available to get in touch and administer treatment whenever is convenient for you. You can access this support from the comfort of your home. Read thoughts that others have to say about their experience with BetterHelp below.
BetterHelp Therapy Reviews
What Is Prejudice?
Therapy can help you cope with prejudice. Therapy is a personal experience, and not everyone will go into it seeking the same things. Keeping this in mind can ensure that you will get the most out of online therapy, regardless of what your goal is. If you’re still wondering what therapy is right for you, and how much therapy is, please contact us at email@example.com. BetterHelp specializes in online therapy to help address all types of mental health concerns. If you’re interested in prejudice therapy, reach out today to get started.
If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about prejudice:
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NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) - 1-800-950-6264
For more information on mental health, see:
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Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA LinkedIn
WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Pinterest, WebMD LinkedIn
NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter,NIMH YouTube, NIMH LinkedIn
APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIn, APA Instagram
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