Prejudice and Discrimination


Prejudice - the unfavourable attitude towards a social group and its members 

Discrimination - is when those attitudes manifest in negative behaviour directed towards an outgroup (dehumanisation and genocide) 

Summer (1906) proposed that prejudice is a product of intergroup competition and serves a dual function 

- Preserves ingroup solidarity 

- Justifies exploitation of the outgroup 

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Social Categorisation

By Tajel & Turner (1979) 

- Self-categorisation where the perceiver is both an individual and an group member 

- Both prejudice and discrimination are more likely to happen if a person closely associates themselves with a group

- Categories are applied to other people, making them 'in' or 'out' group members 

- When the norms/ideals of the in group fall under threat, similarities with ingroup members increase and differences with the outgroup are accentuated 

Gilbert and Hixon (1991) concluded that these categories are adaptive and functional, and help making predictions in an unstable world 

- These functional cognitive mechanisms free up cognitive resources for higher-demand tasks

- Also called 'Learned Associations', a concept similar to schemas 

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Evaluation of Social Categorisation

Greenwald et al. (1998) Implicit Association Test - people responded quicker to consistent attribution pairings 

- High reliability because the measure was below conscious awareness 

- Lab experiment 

Sherif et al. (1953) Summer Camp Study 

- Boys allocated into groups showed derogation behaviour towards the other team 

- Poor controls but set a precedent to study category salience and mere categorisation 

McGarthy et al. (2003) most theories assume that the basis for prejudice is that one group is subordinate to the other, yet this is not the case. This is why interventions don't work 

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Social Identity Theory

Tajfel and Turner (1986) 

- Suggested that prejudice goes beyond mere categorisation and has an underlying psychological component 

- Focuses on the individual acting in a selfish way to promote own self-esteem, which is favoured and becomes a motivator  to pursue different strategies 

- People define themselves based on the group and experience pleasure when the group succeeds, even if they had nothing to do with it 


Tajfel (1971) 

- Minimal group paragigm

- Suggested that people don't necessarily form into groups on belief similarity and in/out groups are formed by suggestions (allocated more money to members of their own group)

- Not enough evidence that attitudes predict behaivour 

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Individual Differences

Attitudes don't always predict behaviour; this depends mostly on individual differences making those prejudices manifest in behaivour 

Authoritarian Personality 

- Research by Adorno (1950) where individuals who demonstrate authoritarian tendencies are more likely to display prejudice towards a minority

Social Dominance Orientation 

- By Sideneallo (1994) people have a preference for hierarchy in any social system


- By Condor et al. (2006) 

- People monitor their world and actions in order to not appear prejudiced 

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Contact Hypothesis

- Under appropriate conditions, contact between members of different social groups can reduce intergroup bias 

- By Allport (1954) necessary conditions include:

1) Social norms favouring equality 

2) Sustained close contact to allow acquaintance potential 

3) Contact under equal social status 

4) Must involve cooperation to achieve a common goal 

Blanchard et al. (1975) the cooperation task must have a successful outcome if contact is to work as an intervention strategy 

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Evaluation of the Contact Hypothesis

Sherif (1953) camp study. Cooperation of working towards a common goal reduced derogation

Pettigrew and Tropp (2006) conducted a meta analysis of 515 studies. Found that not all conditions are necessary, some may be facilitating 

Johnston and Hewstone (1992) 

- Concluded that group differences need to be acknowledged and embraced

- Some conditions indicate that equality is necessary, yet repeated contact with a single outgroup member may lead to sub-typing away from the outgroup 

- This is why 'colour blind' policies don't work 

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Cross-Group Friendships

- This theory suggests that having friends in the outgroup has a positive effect on the attitudes towards that particular outgroup 

- The bond allows a more open view of others 

Paolini and Hewstone (2004) 

- Had Catholics and Protestants fill out a survey about their experience with the other group

- Having friends in the outgroup mediated anxiety about encounters and was associated with more positive attitudes 

Turner and Hewstone (2007) 

- Cross group friendships encourage self-disclosure to the outgroup 

- Increased positive attitudes, empathy, trust

*Not realistic as an intervention strategy 

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Indirect Contact

Extended Contact

- Is the knowledge that someone in your ingroup has friends in the outgroup 

- Cameron and Rutland (2006) conduced a 6 week intervention with 5-10 year olds. Extended contact increased positivity towards the disabled 

- Particularly in the intergorup-extended contact when group salience was emphasised

Imagined Contact 

- When groups have no opportunity to meet or know anyone. It's a mental simulation of a social interaction with a member of the outgroup

- Successful outcomes activate positive concepts to build future associations on

- Turner and Crisp (2007) when students visualised an encounter with an elderly person with a successful outcome they were more receptive to meeting either an old person or a student

- However, Fazio et al. (1983) concluded that extended direct contact was longer lasting 

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Common Ingroup Identity Model

- Assumes that intergroup biases are rooted in the universal tendency to simplify a complex environment by classifying people into groups/categories

- Occurs spontaneously and automatically, based on physical similarity/proximity

- Proposed by Gaerther er al. (1989)

- Includes the 'recategorisation' from a two-group us vs. them to a one-group representation of 'we'


- Former outgroup members become in group members of a new subordinate group 

- Uses cooperative goals to reduce dichotomous categorical representation 

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Strength of Common Ingroup Identity Model

Gaerther et al. (1989) experiment 

- Two minimal groups formed to do problem solving exercises 

- P's sat around the table segregated (AAABBB) or integrated (ABABAB)

- Either had original group names, new names to all participants or individual names

- 1 group: bias reduced by increasing the view of the outgroup 

- Individual condition: bias reduced by decreasing view of past ingroup members 

Dovido et al. (1995) 

- Found that good mood induced prior to the experiment increased overall outgroup liking 

- Offered them chocolate

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Weaknesses of Common Ingroup Identity Model

- Blurring categorisation boundaries doesn't always reduce bias 

- Hewstone (1996) 

- Questioned whether recategorisation can overcome the powerful cognitive mechanisms

- The desire to maintain distinctiveness would make it more difficult to apply 

Crisp and Beck (2005) 

- University students from Birmingham recategorised to join with Aston students 

- Those with high ingroup identities did not show a reduction in prejudice 

- Theory doesn't consider individual differences 

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Multiple Categorisation

An aternative strategy proposed by Crisp et al. (2001) 

- Based on encouraging people to use many categories when thinking about and describing people other than race/gender/age

- Makes social categories fluid and flexible 

- Reduces the impact of one negative category, it is no longer useful 

Hall and Crisp (2005) 

- Students showed an overall reduction in bias when asked to think about overall categories that university students belong to 

- They find belief similarity by exploring these categories whcih leads to a shift in individual mode of processing 

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Optimal Distinctiveness Theory

By Brewer (1991) 

- People are motivated to satisfy two conflicting needs: assimilation and differentiation

- So they seek out groups to balance and satisfy those needs

- Bias and prejuidice arives when the need for differentiation is not achieved and this acts as a motivator for distinctiveness 

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