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Compare and contrast two approaches to the study of prejudice

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Compare and contrast two approaches to the study of prejudice Prejudice in society today seems to be unavoidable. It appears on the news, is portrayed in film and evident in the history books. Prejudice can be defined as a negative attitude toward a particular social group and all its members. A prejudice attitude involves making prejudgements about a person of a group and applying generic attributes (Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). Allport (1945b) suggests that prejudice consists of three components. Firstly a cognitive belief about the group, secondly a strong feeling must be evident about the group and qualities they possess and lastly the intention to act in a certain way towards the group (cited in Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). Prejudice is a problem is society as it can lead to discrimination toward members of a certain group. In the most extreme cases genocide is the ultimate expression of prejudice toward a group. The most prominent example of this is the anti-Semitic actions of Germany in the Second World War. The atrocities that took place at the hands of the German army were high in people's minds and psychologists there after began taking an interest in the origins of prejudice and ways of reducing prejudice. Two approaches that have now become widely acknowledged are those of individual differences resulting in prejudice and inter-group theories of prejudice.


For instance it is conceivable but unlikely that every person who is prejudice had a harsh disciplinary upbringing that results in an authoritarian personality (Hogg & Vaughan, 2004). There is a need of a cultural mentality to result in large scale prejudice such as the apartheid in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. Inter-group theories are able to address this issue. Inter-group theories involve the categorizing of people into distinct groups. Primarily these groups are either 'in-groups', those which we belong to or 'out-groups', a group which we are not a member of (Crisp & Turner, 2007). Sherif, White and Harvey (1955) found that when people are divided into groups it created an environment in which group comparison and the desire to partake in competition was immediately evident. Shortly after the initial division a social identity develops and the introduction of competition caused heightened hostile behaviour (cited in Crisp & Turner, 2007). Sherif's (1955) findings support the theory of realistic group conflict theory. This theory suggests that prejudice is the result of competition for valuable resources (Crisp & Turner, 2007). For instance sexism in the work place could be an example of realistic group conflict theory because of the competition for the jobs and internal promotion. Employers are more likely to show favouritism for their own groups and derogation of the out groups in order to secure their own futures.


The categories the participants were separated into were supposedly based on the preference of a painter and so perhaps had other aspects in common. To rectify this Tafjel replicated the study with some alterations. The participants knew that they were allocated to groups on a purely random basis. Even so, there was still inter-group bias. However, the findings were not as large a number as in the previous study. Inter-group theories give a good account of how the groups we belong to influence our prejudice. However, we must remember that we have control over out thoughts and actions. Consequently, we can choose not to conform to group norms and also not to express prejudice. Individual differences in prejudice consider these aspects more. Prejudice is a complex multi faceted concept with many different contributing factors. The individual difference approach considers how personality affects individuals and the extent to which they express prejudice. However, this approach does not explain large scale prejudice across cultures and other groups. The inter-group theories demonstrate the categorization of people into two main groups, the in and out groups. These theories give a more accepted explanation of prejudice. However, there are still short coming in these theories. For example the need for explanation as to why some people are resistant to the social conditions that should exert prejudice. Subsequently, the deduction is that explanations of prejudice need to consider both approaches to obtain the most informative and balanced conclusion.

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