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Explain methods used by psychologists to reduce prejudice - evaluate these methods.

Free essay example:

Bozena Ewertowska

Student ID: 409670

AS Psychology

Croydon College

Assignment 5:

Explain methods used by psychologists to reduce prejudice - evaluate these methods.

Assignment plan:

1. Introduction

2. The existence of a superordinate goal that precipitates cooperation between rival groups or individuals.

3. A redefinition of social categories, identities and stereotypes and an installation of a new 'politically correct' model of communication and social interaction.

4. The opportunity of equal status contact between rival groups or individuals.

5. A society that provides equal opportunities for attainment of status or social position for all individuals.

6. Summary

1. Introduction

Psychologists have suggested a number of methods and conditions that can lead to a reduction of prejudice that include the following:

1. The existence of a superordinate goal that precipitates cooperation between rival groups or individuals.

2. A redefinition of social categories, identities and stereotypes and an installation of a new 'politically correct' model of communication and social interaction.

3. The opportunity of equal status contact between rival groups or individuals.

4. A society that provides equal opportunities for attainment of status or social position for all individuals.

This list is by no means exhaustive but is sufficient to draw upon the main theories that give rise to the proposed solutions.

2. The existence of a superordinate goal that precipitates cooperation between rival groups or individuals.

The studies of Sherif et al (1961) showed that when rival groups must work together to achieve a common goal the level of prejudice is reduced. A key result the study was that mandatory cooperation was an essential ingredient to reduce prejudice and without it the level of prejudice is not reduced. However, further work by Worchel et al (1997) showed the when the common goal was not achieved the level of prejudice was typically elevated. The results of these experiments are born out by many real world examples, with many regrettable consequences. The "troubles" that afflicted Northern Ireland for three decades are a prime example of the consequences of prejudice and intolerance boiling over amid political failure. The religious 'divide' of the working class in west Belfast was widened with each broken promise of leaders to bring about a permanent change and to halt the violence. Intolerance and violence were repaid in kind, and mistrust and prejudice were bolstered and fuelled by every act of aggression.

3. A redefinition of social categories, identities and stereotypes and an installation of a new 'politically correct' model of communication and social interaction.

Turner (1991) noted that a 'redefinition' of the rival groups so as to give a common identity (at least while in pursuit of the common goal) could reduce prejudice. This was later verified by an experiment by Gaertner et al (1993). However, work by Hewstone et al (1993) highlighted many of the complexities and difficulties one may face applying this approach to real world problems. A key result of the Hewstone study was that religious identity played a central role in how individuals viewed themselves in relation to people of the same and other religions. Many contemporary problems throughout the world arise from prejudices created by beliefs based on religious identity. Clearly, a unifying 'redefinition' of religions that removes the motivation for religious acts of evil is still a long way off.

From the point of view of social learning theory, the Aronson and Osherow (1980) report of the blue-eye/brown-eye experiment conducted with school children highlights how prejudice information can lead to prejudice views, and how awareness and understanding of the process can help be used to reduce prejudice. History, unfortunately, provides many examples of the use of misinformation as a conditioning tool to create prejudice to achieve a particular social or economic transformation (e.g. 'ethnic cleansing' has been 'justified' by the misinformed pretext that a particular race is genetically superior and have 'more' right to life)

Political correctness is gradually edging its way into everyday life, driven in part by a 'PC' makeover of media broadcasting and sanitisation of corporate workplace culture. Many large 'professional' corporations have mandate to display an ethnically diverse workforce and impose a culture that is politically correct, gender neutral and appears discrimination free. This corporate shift may be a precursory indicator or even a leader of fundamental change in social interaction, but it's worth remembering that this sanitisation is also a safeguard against potential claims of discrimination, ensuing litigation and damage to reputation and business.

4. The opportunity of equal status contact between rival groups or individuals.

Studies by Deutsch & Collins (1952) on racially integrated housing schemes indicate that opportunity for equal status contact can lead to a reduction of prejudice. However, studies by Minard (1952) and Stouffer et al (1949) indicate that 'equal status' contact (for example, among coal miners or soldiers) can be a transitive event while the individuals are performing their jobs and the resulting prejudice reduction can disappear when 'customary' social norms start to prevail. These social norms that arise as natural aspects of social structure, custom or values are the most formidable hurdles in the application of the 'equal status' approach. Ultimately, we do not live in a class free society so there can never be true 'equal status' for all individuals.

5. A society that provides equal opportunities for attainment of status or social position for all individuals.

According to Dollards et al (1939) frustration-aggression hypothesis aggression that cannot be expressed directly at the source of frustration can be displaced unto a 'representation' of the source (scapegoat), leading to bias and prejudice. Unlike the previous cases which have their origins in social learning or social identity this form of prejudice is borne out of the frictional component of social interaction. A 'solution' is therefore to reduce this friction as much as possible. The apartheid era in South Africa did recognise the problem of 'cultural friction' and sought to address it by separating black from white. However, the separation was not fair favouring white (supremacy) over black. This in effect only amounted to replacing one source of friction and frustration with another. Typically, social frustrations are linked to exogenous economic conditions where the contrast between the rich and poor is clearly sharpened. The challenge for any government to implement a solution to such frustrations may be simply be too difficult, or not at all practical.

Germany in the late 1930's and early forties provides a good example of national frustration followed by an explosion of national prejudice and aggression. The application of the 'solution' shaped the history of the 20th century.

6. Summary

By understanding the origin and causes of prejudice, psychologists are able to propose methods and conditions that can lead to a reduction of prejudice. However, economic factors, social learning, and identity beliefs based on religion or culture may mean that any attempt to remove prejudice from 'free' society will be met with limited success.

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