Prejudice and Discrimination

Humans are very diverse and although we share many similarities, we also have many differences. No two humans are alike. The social groups we belong to help form our identities. These differences may be difficult for some people to reconcile, which may lead to prejudice towards people who are different. Prejudice is a negative attitude and feeling toward an individual based solely on one’s membership in a particular social group is wrong. Prejudice is common against people who are members of an unfamiliar cultural group. Thus, certain types of education, contact, interactions, and building relationships with members of different cultural groups can substantially reduce the tendency toward prejudice. In fact, simply imagining interacting with members of different cultural groups might minimize prejudice. Indeed, when experimental participants were asked to imagine themselves positively interacting with someone from a different group, this led to an increased positive attitude toward the other group. Furthermore, imagined social interaction can reduce anxiety and uncertainty associated with inter-group interactions. Social groups that contribute to your identity can include

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Social class
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Profession

As is true for social roles, you can simultaneously be a member of more than one social group and broaden your horizon and thinking.

Prejudice often begins in the form of a stereotype—that is, a negative belief about individuals based solely on their membership in a group, regardless of their individual characteristics. Stereotypes become overgeneralized and applied to all members of a group. Racism is prejudice and discrimination against an individual based solely on one’s membership in a specific racial group (such as toward African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans or European Americans) is not acceptable in today’s world.

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