Prejudice can have a strong influence on the way people behave and interact with others, particularly those who are different from them. They usually feel differences as a threat. Prejudice is a baseless and generally negative attitude towards members of a group. Common characteristics of prejudice include negative feelings, stereotypical beliefs, and a tendency to discriminate against group members. While the specific definitions of bias given by social scientists often differ, most agree that it involves biases that are generally negative about members of a collective.
When people have harmful attitudes toward others, they tend to view everyone who fits into a certain group as “all the same.” They paint each individual who possesses particular characteristics or beliefs with a very broad brush and they don’t really look at each person as a unique individual.
Types of prejudice
Prejudice can be based on a number of factors including gender, race, age, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, and religion. Some of the more well-known types of biases include:
- Religious prejudice
Prejudice and stereotypes
When prejudice occurs, stereotypes, discrimination and even harassment can also occur. In many cases, prejudices are based on stereotypes. Stereotypes can be positive (“women are warm and polite”) or negative (“teenage girls are lazy”). Stereotypes can not only lead to wrong beliefs, but can also result in prejudice and discrimination.
Prejudices and stereotypes are mental errors
In other words, we depend on our ability to put people, ideas, and objects into different categories to make the world simpler and easier to understand. We are simply inundated with too much information to analyze it logically, methodically, and rationally.
Being able to quickly categorize information allows us to interact and react quickly, but it also leads to errors . Prejudices and stereotypes are just two examples of the mental errors that result from our tendency to quickly categorize information in the world around us.
The categorization process applies both to the social world and to people in mental groups based on factors such as age, sex, and race . When it comes to categorizing information about people, we tend to minimize differences between people in certain groups and exaggerate differences between groups.
What we can do to reduce prejudice
In addition to looking at the reasons for biases, researchers have also explored different ways to reduce or even eliminate biases. Training people to become more empathetic to members of other groups is a method that has shown considerable success. By imagining themselves in the same situation, people can think about how they would react and gain a greater understanding of other people’s actions.
Other techniques used to reduce prejudice include:
- Pass laws and regulations that require fair and equitable treatment for all groups of people.
- Obtaining public support and awareness of social norms against prejudice.
- Make people aware of inconsistencies in their own beliefs.
- Greater contact with members of other social groups.
It is necessary to be aware that prejudices do not help either on a social level or on an individual level. Prejudices are like the social poison between people, they only bring out the bad and the negative and cruellest part of people. It is necessary to work on tolerance and mutual respect between people, regardless of culture, social status or other aspects to consider.