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Prejudice refers to unfounded beliefs and attitudes expressed by members of society. Prejudices have persisted throughout history, with individuals developing views about other races, socioeconomic class, and other behaviors. They can be both positive and pessimistic. They are impossible to reform when culture keeps them in a manner that makes them seem right. Scholars have questioned whether discrimination should be defined as a social commodity. The thesis statement for this argumentative analysis is: bigotry is a social commodity. Scholars who argue that prejudice is a social product base their claim on the fact that most prejudices emerge from social practices. One of the main ways in which they develop is through socialization, (Meyer, 623). As people interact, they develop certain attitudes towards other groups, depending on how they are treated. The reason why prejudices are hard to is based on the fact that they are passed from parents to children, from one generation to the other. The children are therefore introduced to certain opinions and attitudes through media such as televisions, movies, and advertisements. It is through socialization that most prejudices thrive, for instance, most white children claim that their parents punish them for socializing with African American friends.
Prejudices are shared and passed from one person to the other as a conforming behavior. Most members of the society support certain prejudices, and if some of the members fail to support them, they are seen as non-conforming towards the ways of the society. Most societies, therefore, use the conformance as a way of evaluating whether the members are supporting the well-being of the whole group. High pressures exist by forcing people to conform to the views that are held by families, friends and the society at large.
Scientists have consistently confirmed that prejudice exists greatly in areas where there are great variations in the standards of living. For instance, the African Americans were historically viewed as the poor who were not supposed to engage in white color jobs. Once the African Americans started securing jobs in various professionals including military, the intensity of the prejudice reduced. The difference in social status makes the social distance between the haves and the have-nots to increase, leading to the development of prejudices against each group. In most cases, the people associate according to their social standards, (Eagly et al., 571).
Authoritarian personality is another source of prejudices. Early socialization leads to the development of individual attitudes in children. In cases where children are subjected to constant fear in their early life, they develop stereotypical thinking against adults. They also tend to conform without questioning their superiors and express intolerant religious and sexual beliefs. The children create a tendency of controlling their emotions through rigid attitudes which turns out to be a prejudice among their peers.
Another common social source of prejudice is ethnocentrism. Scholars who support the fact that prejudices are entirely the resultant effects of social interactions have proved that they can originate from the practice of evaluating other people’s culture by one’s culture and norms. Such people fail to appreciate the need for diversity and criticize other’s cultures from a perspective that supports unity in norms. For instance, a person from a culture that supports women working in offices as well as performing domestic chores can easily engage in stereotypical thinking against a culture that only confines women’s work to domestic chores. In such a case, the two cultures would hold different prejudices against the others.
Prejudices develop as a result of group closure. This refers to the interactions among group members with strict boundaries to outsiders. Such group closure leads to the development of opinions such as; people should only marry spouses who are from their ethnic groups. They develop negative attitudes towards people who are from other ethnic groups, therefore being unwilling to interact.
According to the conflict theory, privileged members of the society tend to hold the prejudice that no competition should arise from the less privileged group, (Fiske, 266). The privileged group view themselves as the custodians of power and possessions and is ready to engage in conflict to protect them. On the other hand, the less privileged are also ready to engage in violence as a way of improving their lives. This leads to the development of opinions that are not based on facts, which are passed on from generations to generations.
According to the Pygmalion Effect, people tend to behave according to how they are treated by others, (Austen, 34). For instance, if a person thinks that the other is clever they tend to treat his or her like one. On being treated as a clever person, such a person behaves like one. On the other hand, negatively believes towards a group of people makes one treat them negatively. On being treated negatively, the group tends to believe that they are supposed to be treated that way.
Stereotype threats contribute greatly towards the development of prejudices, (Dovidio et al. 63). Studies on sophomores and black students revealed that they performed poorly when their race was emphasized. On the other hand, the students performed better and even equally to white students when their race was not emphasized during their college life. If conclusions were to be drawn that sophomores and black students perform poorly when compared to white students, then that would be an opinion that is not based on the right foundations, since the stereotype threats would have influenced it. Viewing one’s behavior through the lens of racial stereotypes can lead to variation in performance, which is the primary source of prejudice.
Prejudices also develop as a result of social identity. The sense of who we are, which is also referred to as self-concept, determines the social identity. If personal identity is not based on the right foundations, for instance, where discrimination makes one view himself or herself as a failure, then the social identity will also be affected. This has been the source of most negative prejudices.
In-group bias determines the definition of which one is. Groups such as religions, races, genders and academic groups have values that dictate how the members view themselves. Such values as the circle that includes “us” does not include “them” form prejudices that inhibit the free interactions of the groups as well as increased in-group bias, (Herek, 42).
Some scholars claim that it would be wrong to describe prejudices as a social product since other than developing from social practices; they also develop from other sources. These sources include emotional and cognitive sources.
According to the Scapegoat Theory, the presence of frustration and pain often leads to the development of hostility. The hostility is normally directed to the barriers, and in case the barriers are unknown, then the aggression is displaced. The scapegoat theory has confirmed that people tend to pass blame and responsibility to other group members, other than themselves. The direction of the feelings of anger due to frustrations is often made thorough inappropriate accusations of others. Such projections alienate the victims from the perpetrators, making it easy for them to be used as a scapegoat since they feel separated from each other, (Stephan et al., 77).
For instance, the promotion of a male colleague can make a female colleague to develop a prejudice against males. Instead of examining herself to find out why she was not qualified for the promotion, she places blame on the man, claiming that the males are seizing all the opportunities. If the prejudice is passed across the organization, then it will have significant effects on the employees’ interactions. The tendency to have placed the blame on the men in such a case would have contributed to the fact that there are differences between the two genders. However, it would have been hard to pass the blame if the case involved two females.
Cognitive sources of prejudice result from the process of acquiring knowledge through deep thoughts, experiences, and senses. One way in which human beings simplify their understanding of the environment is by categorizing substances into groups. The categories are made according to the perceived similarities and differences. In most cases, generalizations are made towards specific groups of people and objects without adequate basis of information.
Distinctiveness is another cognitive source of prejudices. In most cases, people are categorized according to their characteristics and behaviors. This makes people not to focus on other minor defining character traits, hence drawing their judgment on the wrong foundation. Such distortion of judgment has led to the adoption of wrong attitudes towards certain groups of people, (Dovidio et al, 62).
Fundamental attribution error is commonly committed when people are explaining other’s characteristics, actions, and behaviors. This leads to more emphasis being laid on people’s inner dispositions, failing to pay the necessary attention to the situational forces. There are external forces that influence a person’s behavior, which should also be considered before making conclusions about a person’s behavior.
The fundamental attribution error leads to the development of opinions towards certain groups of people which do not fully represent their behavior. For instance, if a white person is walking down a crowded sidewalk carrying bags of shopping and then an African American bumps on him, the white is likely to get angry and think that the African American has no respect for others. The inclination to think so is as a result of failing to consider other situational factors since there are chances that another person had also bumped on the African American. At the same time, the shopping bags could have been occupying more space than expected. The failure to consider such situational factors make people develop prejudices, (Brown, 23).
Prejudices develop due to different factors which have been discussed in this study. It is worth noting that social factors play the major role in their development, although emotional and cognitive factors contribute towards the same. Social factors such as stereotype threats, socialization, and social inequality, among others have been proved to be the main causes of prejudices. Considering the intensity of the contributing factors, this study concludes that prejudice is a social product. This does not eliminate the contribution of non-social factors but shows the major significance of the social factors in the development of prejudices.
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