Theories of prejudice

Brief information on the theories of prejudice.

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  • Theories of prejudice
    • Authoritarian personality theory
      • Adorno (1950) said authoritarian personality resulted in prejudice, discrimination and negative attitudes towards a group.
      • People with an authoritarian personality obey higher order figures such as when they obeyed their parents.
        • Their personality is conventional and conservative-sticks to the male norms.
        • Their parents were overly harsh and disciplined, this resulted in the child having a weak ego.
          • This relates to Freud because Adorno said this develops in childhood.
          • This type of personality expresses authority, stereotypes readily,submissive to superiors and aggressive to inferiors.
      • Adorno investigated the extent to which a person with an authoritarian personality is likely to be anti Semitic or ethnocentric.
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    • Realistic conflict theory
      • This occurs when there is a competition over limited resources.
        • As long as the competition occurs, there is an increased negativity between the groups. At the extreme, it will result in one group thinking they are superior.
      • Key study: Sherif
        • Concern has been issued over the ethics of this study.
        • A field experiment
        • To investigate whether conflict occurs between groups because of scarce resources.
        • 22 eleven year old middle class boys were sent to a summer camp in America and the boys were divided into Rattlers and Eagles.
          • This was done by random allocation.
          • In the first week, each group didn't know each other's existence and in the second week they were set up in competitions and offered prizes.
        • Strong in-group and out group feelings developed leading to hostility, stereotypes and fights.
          • Conflict can occur over scarce resources (only one team received prizes).
        • High ecological validity
      • Conflict is not the only reason why prejudice occurs.
      • This involves two or more social groups.
    • Social identity theory
      • This believes that naturally we divide the world into 'us' and 'them'.
        • This is known as the in-group and the out-group.
          • This occurs through a process known as social categorisation.
          • An in-group will be prejudice to the out-group and this as a result will discriminate them.
            • The advantages of this is that the in-group will have a boost in self-esteem.
          • There will be an over-evaluation of the in-group and devaluation of the out-group.
          • Stereotypes are used to enhance the in-group and devalue the out-group.
      • This natural prejudice explanation could be misinterpreted as a justification for prejudice.
      • Key study: Tajel (1970)
        • To investigate whether random assignment in a group would be enough to result in prejudice between the in-group and the out-group.
        • School children aged between 11 and 14 year old were assigned to a group that they were told is because of their similarities in interests in music artists.
          • No interaction took place.
          • Each person was asked to create a model and they were then asked to reward the best models.
            • Generally it was found that children were more likely to allocate rewards to the in-group rather than the out-group.
            • People show prejudice to out-groups and favour the in-group when membership is anonymous.
        • Known as a minimal group paradigm - this is where the group doesn't know each other and don't engage with each other.
      • The prejudice is suggested in order to boost self-esteem.
      • This may not comply with all culture norms especially with more cooperative societies.
    • Prejudice is an attitude/belief that is wrong or unjustified attitude based solely on their membership in a group


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