Stereotyping, Prejudice And Discrimination Essay Example
People always want to understand why some people view others negatively or positively. Some individuals tend to portray some kind of harsh attitude or behavior towards others. These can either be prejudice or discrimination manifesting itself among people belonging to different groups. Prejudice can, therefore, be defined as unwarranted attitude, normally negative, towards a person due to their membership to a certain social group. On the other hand, discrimination is the actions, normally negative, that an individual does towards a certain person or group on the basis of their race, sex, social and economic class or religion. There are many theories that can explain the prevalence of discrimination and prejudice in the society (Hayes, 2000).
Economic theory: realistic conflict theory
Personality theory: authoritarian personality
Economic theory: realistic conflict theory
The theory states that due to the limited resources, it leads to conflict between different social groups and as a result, in leads to an increase in prejudice and discrimination. Economic competition has been documented to lead to discrimination and prejudice especially against groups experiencing scarcity of jobs and resources. The “Robber’s Cave” experiment is useful in understanding the conflict that arises from feeling an attachment to a particular group. In the experiment, 12-year-old boys were placed in two groups; Eagles or the Rattlers where their first duty was to increase group cohesiveness in an isolated place. The second phase was set in a serious of competitive actions where each group competed against each other. The third pause aimed at reducing hostility experienced in second phase, but the hostility remained. It is evident in this case, that once an individual sees you as a competitor or an advisory, they do not get out of the mindset that you are always on the other side of the fence. One feels the need to remain defensive and the best way for one to do this is by remaining hostile and highly competitive towards the other person. The need for one to have the best in life and most especially have control of resources, drive him or her to develop prejudice and discriminate against those he or she sees as worthy or unworthy advisories (Brown, 2000). Once an individual develops the mindset that one is a competitor, then even with the lack of competition between them, it is difficult for them to overcome the competition that existed during the competitive period.
The other explanation that can help understand cases of prejudice and discrimination in the economic theory is scapegoating. There are individuals who when they feel frustrated or unhappy about something looks for someone to place all their frustrations and anger onto. When one feels frustrated due to limited resources and especially when they feel that someone is taking control over their powers, they look for someone who is powerless and disliked to take their frustrations upon. Taking the example of an office setting, the subordinates may always be on the receiving end when their bosses are frustrated by those above them. A boss may have lost to a competition company or individual and they pour all the anger and frustration on their staff who have no voice or power to stand up to the boss (Gross, 2013).
It is common to find that some people may place value on a person based on their ability to compete with them for something or not. If a person proves to be someone who can really increase the scale of competition, then one may develop some kind of respect as they see them as belonging to the same level as them. However, if one lacks the skills, knowledge or capacity to compete on the same level, then one sees them as lacking and often develops a negative attitude leading to prejudice and discrimination against that individual. However, the explanation of economic theory has its own limitation. One of them is that there are cases when the person under prejudice or discrimination does not have any direct competition with the person (Brown, 2000).
Personality is the blend of unique characteristics or traits that make an individual different from others in a group or social setting. There are different personality theories that aim to explain the development of personality and how it impacts on the life of an individual and those around him or her. However, in this case, Eysenck’s Personality Theory will help explain how personality theory can explain cases and causes of prejudice and discrimination. The approach of personality trait takes the assumption that a person’s behavior can be determined by stable characteristics that are vital units of their personality. Traits incline one to act in a certain manner in spite of the situation facing them. Therefore, according to this theory, the personality traits of an individual should not change, but only vary among different individuals due to genetic predisposition among them.
In 1952, 1967 and 1982, Eysenck came up with an influential approach to personality from a factor analysis of answers given by soldiers from undergoing treatment got neurotic disorders. According to him, there are three types of personalities; extrovert, introvert and psychotism. He discovered that he could classify personality based on the Introversion / Extroversion (E) version and the Neuroticism / Stability (N) group (Gross, 2013). According to him, extroverts were social, want excitement, carefree, optimistic and are easily bored. The introverts, on the other hand, are reserved, keep to themselves, control their feelings, realistic and are highly pessimistic. The neurotics or unstable are anxious, emotional, moody and are easily upset. The stables are the calm, unattractive and rarely worried. From the above classification of personality types, people can fall into either one of the category. As a result of this, prejudice may arise from one’s personality type as it plays a role in influencing their actions and behaviors. However, it is the authoritarian personality that will best explain the role of personality in prejudice and discrimination based on personality types. According to Adorno, some deep-rooted personality traits act as a predisposition for one to act in a highly totalitarian and antidemocratic manner making them prone to prejudice. According to the F-scale used to perform the study, children raised by strict parents scored high in the scale (Brown, 2000).
The study concluded that the authoritarian personality tend to be highly hostile to those inferior to them in terms of status and obeyed those of a high status (Gross, 2013). They are also rigid when it comes to changing some of their opinions and belief on something. They are also highly traditional and conventional predisposing them to classify people into categories of “us “or ‘them.” According to Adorno and his colleagues, the fact that a child raised by authoritarian parent cannot stand to the parent and question them, targets those who are weaker than them (Gross, 2013). According to the study, some of the predisposing traits of an authoritarian that results in prejudice include; ethnocentrism where there is a tendency for one to favor those of his or her own ethic group. There is also the obsession with rank and the status that comes with it. As a result, they have respect for authority and submission while they look down upon subordinates. However, based on critical evaluation of the explanation of personality theory on prejudice and discrimination, there are weaknesses to some of the explanations given. One of them is that not all children brought up in a strict and highly authoritarian homestead always end up being an authoritarian and become prejudice and discriminatory. The other limitation of this explanation is that some prejudice and discriminatory people are in the authoritarian personality type. Therefore, one may say that cultural and social values and beliefs are a more plausible explanation for the cases of prejudice and discrimination in the society (Gross, 2013).
Prejudice and discrimination are no longer prevalent in the society as they were fifty years ago. However, there are modern forms of prejudice and discrimination that one may fail to notice when it is not directed upon them. Various explanations can be given as to why the prejudice and discrimination occurs. Various theories attempt to explain them and s discussed above, the personality theory and economic theory aim at giving possible reasons why this is the case. The different personality type predisposes one to act in certain ways making one more prone to prejudice and discrimination. The parenting of individuals may also play a key role in shaping the personality of an individual making them prone to or not to bias (Brown, 2000). Competition plays a key role in creating a discriminatory environment in the society. Feeling threatened by someone wanting the same resources may force one to develop hostility as a form of coping with the other individual. Letting go of the hostility is not simple as it becomes rooted in the mind and actions of the individual. Therefore, understanding prejudice and discrimination may be possible if these theories are criticized to understand the role of personality and competition on the issue (Hayes, 2000).
Brown, R 2000, Prejudice: Its Social Psychology, Blackwell, Oxford. Gross, R 2013, Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour, Hodder, Oxon. Hayes, N 2000, Foundation of Psychology, South-Western, London.