Prejudice reflects a biased and negative view of a group negative to another person based solely on that person’s membership in a particular group.

Prejudice is not personal—it is an affective reaction toward the category

Example- a person may hold prejudiced views towards a certain race or gender etc. (e.g. sexist)

Definitions of prejudice

‘‘An antipathy based on faulty and inflexible generalization directed towards a group as a whole or towards an individual because he is a member of that group. It may be felt or expressed.’’  (Allport, 1954)

‘‘Prejudice is an attitude (usually negative) toward the members of some group, based solely on their membership in that group.’’ (Baron and Byrne, 1991).

‘Prejudice is a learned attitude towards a target object that typically involves negative affect, dislike or fear, a set of negative beliefs that support the attitude and a behavioral intention to avoid, or to control or dominate, those in the target group. . . Stereotypes are prejudiced beliefs . . . when prejudice is acted out, when it becomes overt in various forms of behavior, then discrimination is in practice’ (Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991).



Prejudice is an extreme attitude; prejudice comprises the three components common to all attitudes:

    1. The cognitive component is the
    2. The affective – a strong feeling of hostility.
    3. The behavioral -can take different forms.–Allport (1954) proposed five stages of this component: as per Allport’s Scale of Prejudice and Discrimination–
          1. Antilocution
            • Hate speech, hostile talk, verbal abuse and insult, racial jokes.
            • Seen as “harmless,” “just a joke,” “freedom of speech” but creates climate which allows for more severe acts to occur
          1. Avoidance
            • Members of a majority group actively avoid members of marginalized groups
            • Harm is not intended but is done through isolation
            • keeping a distance but without actively inflicting harm
          1. Discrimination
            • Barring from housing, civil rights, employment
            • Actively targeting the banished person
            • Rejecting opportunities for education, etc.
          1. Physical attack
            • violence against the person and property
            • Includes hate crimes, vandalizing, lynching, etc.
          1. Extermination
            • indiscriminate violence against an entire group (including genocide).
            • “The Final Solution” for the Jewish population
            • “Ethnic Cleansing” in Bosnia


Attempts to explain prejudice and discrimination fall into three broad categories:

    1. personality variables and other aspects of the psychological make-up of individuals
    2. The role of environmental factors (conflict approach)
    3. The effects of the mere fact of a group membership.


  1. Personality variables
    1. The authoritarian personality- Adorno et al. (1950) proposed the authoritarian personality are hostile to people of inferior status, submissive to those of higher status and contemptuous of weakness. They’re also rigid and inflexible, intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, unwilling to introspect feelings, and upholders of conventional values and ways of life (such as a religion).
    2. The open and closed mind – According to Rokeach (1960), ‘ideological dogmatism’ refers to a relatively rigid outlook on life and intolerance of those with opposing beliefs. High scores on the dogmatism scale reveal: (i) closedness of mind; (ii) lack of flexibility; and (iii) authoritarianism,
    3. Social dominance theory–The central focus of SDT is on social dominance orientation (SDO); this measures how much an individual accepts general cultural ideologies concerning equality or inequality within society. A high SDO has a strong desire to promote intergroup hierarchies; they also reject politics aimed at establishing equality. A low SDO believes that inequality is unjust and support views and political policies designed to reduce social inequalities.
    4. Scapegoating – the frustration-aggression hypothesis –According to Dollard et al.’s (1939) frustration always gives rise to aggression, and aggression is always caused by frustration. The source of frustration might often be seen as a fairly powerful threat or difficult to identify.


2. Environmental factors –

    1. The impact of social norms: prejudices as conformity. According to Reich and Adcock (1976), the need to conform and not be seen as different may cause milder prejudices. But active discrimination against, and ill-treatment of, minorities reflects a prejudice that already exists, and which is maintained and legitimized by conformity.
    1. Relative deprivation theory – The difference between our actual accomplishments (standard of living) and expectations (the standard of living we feel we deserve) is our relative deprivation (Davis, 1959).
  1. The influence of group membership
      1. Minimal groups According to Tajfel et al. (1971), the mere perception of another group’s existence can produce discrimination. When people are arbitrarily and randomly divided into two groups, knowledge of the other group’s existence is a sufficient condition for the development of pro-in group and anti-outgroup attitudes. These artificial groups are known as minimal groups.
      2. Social identity theory (SIT)– Tajfel (1978) and Tajfel and Turner (1986) explain the minimal group effect in terms of social identity theory (SIT). According to SIT, an individual strives to achieve or maintain a positive self-image. This has two components: personal identity (the personal characteristics and attributes that make each person unique) and social identity (a sense of who we are, derived from the groups we belong to).


    • Contact hypothesisAllport’s (1954). It predicts that prejudice can only be reduced when in-group and out-group members are brought together.
    • In particular, there are six conditions that must be met to reduce prejudice, as
    • First, the in- and out-groups must have a degree of mutual interdependence.
    • Second, both groups need to share a common goal.
    • Third, the two groups must have equal status.
    • Fourth, there must be frequent opportunities for informal and interpersonal contact between groups
    • Fifth, there should be multiple contacts between the in- and the out-groups.
    • Finally, social norms of equality must exist and be present to foster prejudice reduction.







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