Prejudice - How To Overcome Preconceived Judgment (Guide)

While stereotypes come in the form of beliefs and expectations about groups, prejudice is more likely to come in the form of feelings towards a group. Prejudice can be of significant detriment if the person feels negatively judged or unfairly treated. Discrimination, or actions or behaviors taken against individuals as a result of prejudiced beliefs, can create feelings of sadness in victims.

Prejudice and discrimination may have far-reaching effects. People who believe that they are being judged negatively or who are treated as inferior may have difficulty performing to the best of their ability, especially if they experience prejudice or discrimination on an ongoing basis due to an intrinsic characteristic of who they are as a person.

These preconceived judgment of someone due to their social class, gender, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or other personal traits also lead those affected by these assumptions and behaviors to develop physical or emotional issues as a result. While prejudice is likely to have a negative impact for the victims of these stereotypes, prejudiced belief systems can also often negatively impact society as a whole. 

When a majority of people in a community subscribe to prejudiced or untrue beliefs about a particular group of people, that group of people may experience a decrease in freedoms, rights, or fair treatment. Individuals who hold prejudiced beliefs also often limit themselves, on basis of their beliefs, from new experiences that could foster growth.

The primary difference between prejudice and stereotypes is that stereotypes refer to beliefs or thoughts about a group whereas prejudice refers to feelings about a group. You can think about stereotypes reflecting what is in people's "minds" and prejudice reflecting what is in people's "hearts."

"I like or dislike ..."
"I respect or do not respect ..."
"I feel threatened by/hostile toward/envious of/sympathy for/admiration for ..."

Even with this distinction, there are many similarities. It is often the case that stereotypes and prejudices influence each other. Additionally, like a stereotype, a prejudice need not be inaccurate (i.e., unjustified) in order to be a prejudice. A prejudice can also be positive, negative, or a mixture of positive and negative reactions.

Prejudices need not be applied to all group members to be a prejudice. Prejudices can be culturally or individually endorsed and explicitly or implicitly endorsed. The following will address key features of prejudice.
  • Prejudice can influence stereotypes.
  • Stereotypes can justify prejudice.
  • Prejudice can be positive, negative, or a mixture of both.
  • Prejudice, like stereotypes, can be implicitly or explicitly held.

So How Can Prejudice Influence Stereotypes?

If a person dislikes a group (i.e, prejudice), then it is likely that the person's beliefs (i.e., stereotypes) about the group will also be negative. The converse is also true. If the feelings are positive, it is likely that the beliefs will also be positive. The above relationship is a correlation and the relationship also goes the other way. 

Specifically, if a person's beliefs about a group are negative then the person is likely to have negative feelings towards the group. Conversely, when a person's beliefs are positive, the person is more likely to have positive feelings towards the group. For instance, some people hold the stereotyped belief that non-religious individuals lack self-control (stereotype) and this leads them to dislike (prejudice) the group. 
In contrast, others hold the stereotyped belief that Asians work hard (stereotype) and this leads them to admire (prejudice) the group.

Prejudice Can Be Positive, Negative, Or A Mixture Of Both

Negative Prejudice: Negative prejudice is the most common form of prejudice that people consider. An example of a negative prejudice would be members of a particular race (e.g., Black or White people) or religion (e.g., Protestant) not liking or feeling threatened by people from a different race. It does not matter whether people have a justification for their evaluations; the tendency to dislike a group or feel threatened by a group is a negative prejudice.

Positive Prejudice: When a person has positive reactions to and feelings about a group we call it a positive prejudice. This doesn't mean that the prejudice is "positive" in the sense that it should be strived for. In reality, positive prejudice can be a problem when favoring one group leads to disadvantaging another (i.e., discrimination). 

An example of positive prejudice is that people tend to evaluate the groups that they belong to (ingroups) more positively than groups they do not belong to (outgroups). They do not necessarily evaluate these other groups negatively; they may have neutral or even positive evaluations. But the critical point is that they evaluate their own group more favorably.

For instance, Penn State students may perceive Ohio State students positively, but they perceive fellow Penn State students more positively than they perceive Ohio State students. However, some positive prejudices have a negative side to them. Indeed a more accurate way to describe these prejudices is that they are ambivalent rather than positive. 

They only appear positive because the negative side is not revealed or is not as obvious as the positive side. Ambivalent prejudices characterize evaluations of many different groups. For example, some people tend to have ambivalent reactions to the elderly for opposite reasons. They consider them to be warm and nice but do not think that they are particularly capable workers. This type of ambivalence is associated with pity.

Prejudice, like stereotypes, can be implicitly or explicitly held. Thus, just like stereotypes, categorization can result in automatic activation of attitudes and evaluations. These automatic or implicitly activated prejudices may or may not match a person's explicit attitudes and evaluations about groups. Moreover, like stereotypes, a primary source of implicit prejudice is culture.

Prejudice is such a basic part of a person's complex thought process that any one of many causes may be a factor, such as a person's appearance, unfamiliar social customs of others, or even the type of motor vehicle a person drives.

As there are many causes of prejudice, there can be many forms of prejudicial expression, the most common of which is discrimination.
Discrimination is the unfair treatment of people simply because they are different from the dominant group in society. An example would be a person, group, or company favoring one person over another on some arbitrary basis, such as gender or social class (groups of people sharing similar wealth and social standing), rather than on individual merit.

The first prejudices in human history perhaps resulted from a fear of strangers or feelings of superiority over others. As societies became more complex, due to an increase in population and in the ways to group people, such as through social classes and multiple ethnic groups, prejudices also became more complex. 

Because prejudice frequently involves multiple factors both at the individual and group levels, determining the cause of prejudice in any single person is difficult. Most people do not willingly reveal their prejudices or the reasons for them, if they are even aware of their prejudices at all.

Some people may have become prejudiced through some traumatic event they experienced in their lives. Others are simply conforming to the society in which they live, expressing the same prejudices as parents, popular political leaders, or employers. Regardless of the cause of a person's prejudice, stereotypes, oversimplified opinions of others, are usually involved.

Class discrimination can be seen in many different forms of media such as television shows, films and social media. Class discrimination in the media displays the knowledge of what people feel and think about classicism. When seeing class discrimination in films and television shows, people are influenced and believe that is how things are in real life, for whatever class is being displayed.

Media is a big influence on the world today, with that something such as classism is can be seen in many different lights. Usually the low income earners are displayed in the media as, lack of education and manners. Elites are usually displayed as snobby, rude, high education and rich. 

From both sides of that being displayed in the media, people are able to take what they see, whether that be true or not and believe what they want to believe. People can use the media to learn more about different social classes or use the media, such as social media to influence others on what they believe. 

In some cases, people who are in a social class that is portrayed in a bad way by the media can be affected in school and social life. Teenagers who grew up in deprived homes reported higher levels of discrimination, and the poorer the teens were, the more they experienced discrimination.

How To Overcome Prejudice

In order to fully overcome prejudice, you must work toward lessening your own prejudice as well as fighting to end prejudice on a societal level. You can overcome prejudice by challenging your own biases, increasing your social connection, and coping healthfully with prejudice. In order to combat your own biases, you first need to know what they are.

In social psychology there are tools used to assess implicit feelings and beliefs about different individuals; these are called Implicit Association Tests (IAT). These tests will tell you to an extent your level of inherent bias toward certain groups of people. You can take an IAT, created by Harvard University, on any number of topics including gender, religion, and race. These tests can be found online.

Keep yourself accountable. A prejudice is a kind of handicap to your perspective as it forbids you to think beyond your assumptions and builds a virtual wall around your objective thinking. Your own implicit and explicit attitudes toward individuals of a different race, for example, strongly predicts how friendly you will be toward them (both verbally and nonverbally).

Acknowledge your own biases and prejudices, and actively replace them with more reasonable alternatives. For example, if you think something stereotypical about a certain gender, religion, culture or race remind yourself that this is a bias against that group and that you are over-generalizing.

Recognize the negative effects of prejudice. In order to reduce prejudice or bias in yourself, it may be helpful to identify and understand the effects that your biases can have on others. Being a victim of prejudice or overt discrimination can result in devastating health effects. Dealing with prejudice and discrimination can lead to depression as well as reductions in adequate health care, housing, education, and employment. 

Being in a situation where someone is prejudiced against you can lead to a decrease in your self-control. Some individuals may have internalized self-stereotypes or prejudices. Self-stigma occurs when you have a negative belief about yourself. If you agree with the belief (self-prejudice), it can lead to negative behaviors (self-discrimination).

Increase Social Connection To Reduce Your Biases

Surround yourself with a variety of people. Diversity may also be a factor that contributes to an ability to cope well with prejudice. If you are not exposed to different races, cultures, and religions, you cannot fully accept the diversity that exists in the world. When we really get to know someone is when we stop judging and start listening and learning.

One way to experience diversity is to travel to another country, or even town. Every small city has its own culture including popular foods, traditions, and activities. For example, people in the city may have different experiences than people in the country – simply because of the environment.

Be around people you admire. Expose yourself to individuals different from you (racially, culturally, gender, sexuality, etc.) whom you look up to or admire. This may help change implicit negative attitudes toward members from different cultures.

Even looking at pictures or reading about diverse people you admire can be helpful in reducing any bias you have toward a group they are a member of (racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, etc.). Try reading a magazine or book that is written by someone different from you.

If you expect a group of people to all be the same, then you may judge individuals negatively if they don’t meet your standards, which can lead to discrimination. One way to avoid justifying stereotypes is to disagree with people when they make a stereotypical comment.

Be open and accept yourself. Sometimes when we feel threatened by prejudice or discrimination, we might want to isolate ourselves from the world so that no more harm can be done to us. Isolating and concealing your identity may be a self-protective measure, but also may increase stress and negative reactions to prejudice.

Know who you are and accept yourself regardless of what you believe others think about you. Identify who you can trust with your personal information and be open around these individuals.

Get family support. If you have experienced prejudice or discrimination, social support can be crucial in coming to terms with these issues and healing from them. Family support can help reduce the negative health effects of prejudice. Talk with your close family or friends about the injustice you have experienced.

Expect a positive or neutral outcome. If you have experienced prejudice or discrimination in the past it is understandable that you would be wary of experiencing this again. However, expecting for others to be prejudiced against you, or thinking others will act a certain way can lead to increased stress.

Don’t expect to be rejected. Try to look at each situation and interaction as a new experience. Expecting that others with be prejudiced against you can become a prejudice in itself. Try not to generalize and label others as a certain way (including as prejudiced, judgmental, racist, etc.). Remember that if you pre-judge people and expect them to be prejudiced, then you may be the one with the bias.

Cope healthfully and creatively. Some people may have negative ways of coping with prejudice, including aggressive behaviors or unnecessary confrontations. Instead of sacrificing your values to cope with prejudice, use ways of coping that help to release or process your emotions related to prejudice.

Express yourself through: Art, writing, dance, music, acting, or anything else that is creative. Get involved. Being active in reducing prejudice may help give you a sense that you are making a difference.

When we are confined to a single culture, it’s incredibly difficult to see that one’s way is not the only way, that one’s Truth is not the only possible way in which things are done. A neuroscience finding is often misinterpreted to suggest that our prejudices are being hard-wired. If brain regions light up when we look at pictures of the other, then we must be born with certain believes.

But a fantastic essay in the book by Kareem Johnson speaks volumes about the plasticity of our biology. Johnson describes a study he conducted in which he showed participants faces of Black and White people; later he showed these participants some of the same faces, mixed in with new ones, and asked the participants to recall whether they had seen each face or not.

Johnson found that White participants made many more errors for the Black than the White faces, and vice-versa—evidence for the notorious “outgroup homogeneity effect,” where members of other groups (aka “outgroups”) look a lot more like one another than members of our own “ingroups.”

However, Johnson had some of the participants watch a short video clip that made them feel happy before seeing the second round of faces. The result? The own-race bias disappeared, and people were no worse at recalling White versus Black faces.

In a separate study, psychologist Tiffany Ito found that when she induced participants simply to smile while looking at a set of Black and White faces (had them hold a pencil in their mouth to simulate the experience of smiling—try it!), they showed less implicit bias on a subsequent test of racial attitudes.

The same is true for colorblindness: If you say to yourself, “I’m not going to notice race!” you are actually more likely to become preoccupied with whether you are thinking about race, which will then make race a more salient category that you spend even more time trying to ignore. Further, research has shown that colorblindness can actually increase prejudice, precisely because the salience of race makes it more likely to be used unconsciously.

The solution? Acknowledge differences, rather than trying to fight an uphill battle to ignore them.

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