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Social Psychology Part 3

Social Psychology Part 3

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Published by Nadeem Graham
Basic concepts of social psychology
Basic concepts of social psychology

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Published by: Nadeem Graham on Feb 11, 2013
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Social Psychology Basics Part 3As we have previously seen, there are biases and faults in the attribution process whichinfluence our explanations of behaviours. In this post particularly nasty and pervasivemanifestations of these faults shall be elucidated. Prejudice and discrimination.Zimbarda et al(
1995) describe prejudice as ‘..a learned attitude toward a target object,
involving negative affect (dislike or fear) and negative beliefs (stereotypes) that justify the
attitude.’
 
Discrimination being as ‘..the behavioural intention to a
void, control, dominate or eliminate
those In the target group.’
 In our societies we find prejudice and discrimination against those of a different sex, age,disability, psysical appearance and/or ethnicity (non-exhaustive list).Allport(1954) outlines five behavioural stages of ethnic prejudice
 –
 1) Anti-locution or verbal denigration such as racist jokes/slurs2) Avoidance/segregation of the ethnic group3) Discrimination, or the inequitable treatment or exclusion of those belonging to an ethnicgroup.4) Physical attack, actual violence against persons or their property.5) Extermination of the ethnic groupPrejudice is an example of an attitude and has three components-1) The affective component refers to our feelings or emotions towards the target group.2) The cognitive component refers to beliefs, thoughts and ideas we have towards the targetgroup.3) The behavioural component is our predisposition to behave in a certain way towards thetarget group.These three components are usually found to be in balance so that if our beliefs about thetarget group are negative so also will our feelings and behaviour be negative. This is becausewe prefer consistency in our social world which allows us to interact successfully. Balancemay not always be achieved. Fishbein and Ajzen(1975) argue that although attitudes areusually correlated with both behavioural intentions and actual behaviour, people may holdprejudiced beliefs without acting on those beliefs by discriminating.In many schools forexample, you will find that boys and girls receive separate physical education. Discriminationwithout prejudice.The most prolific form of prejudice and discrimination is racism which is defined as anyattitude, action or or institutional structure which exerts power unjustly over others becauseof their race.This definition you will note extends to both individual and institutional racism.Cray(1995) observes that ,the political, and economic structure of an organisation can be soset so that it discriminates. In fact Jobanputra(1995) claims that psychology itself has alwaysbeen affected by the racism of the society which it finds itself situated. Bhavnani andPhoenix(1994) list three forms of racism which are most evident.1) Biological Racism- This assumes that some groups are naturally inferior than others andhas been clearly demonstrated in the use of IQ testing which perhaps knowingly fails toaccount for factors such as stereotype threat.
 
2) Common Sense Racism- This refers to work done on Social Identity Theory which assumesthat in-group favouritism automatically leads to discrimination.(more on S.I.D. later)3) New or Modern Racism- This does not view other groups as being explicitly deficient inphysical and/or intellectual ability but attempts to justify supposed differences in moresubtle ways, such as in regards their culture, and in espousing non-traditional values.Theories on the origins and maintenance of prejudice and discrimination are advanced bypsychologists, historians, sociologist and scientists .Scientists with the biologicaldeterminants, historians with regards past economic conflicts, and sociologists with broadpatterns of sociocultural factors. Though it is with psychologists and their theories at theindividual, group and societal level that we shall concern ourselvesThe first we shall discuss is at the individual level and concerns personality, which someclaim as the primary cause of racism. One of the more well known of these was advanced byAdorno et According et al(1950). According to them the origins of prejudice lie in what they
termed an ‘authoritarian personality’. He found using results from a battery of tests thatthose concerned with power, authority and obedience to be highly ‘ethnocentric’, meaning,
more concerned with those of their own national, ethnic, or religious groups to beacceptable. This results in hostility towards those who do not possess those attributes.Although once popular, personality theories have fell into disrepute. One of the mainreasons being the inability of such theories to explain prejudice at the level of large groupsand society. It may be also be of notealso that Rokeach(1960) points out that theauthoritarian personality is not only to be found with adherents of right wing politicalconservatism, but also with extreme political conservatism on the left. Rather thanexplained by an authoritarian personality, Rokeach goes on to explain that it is not anauthoritarian personality but a dogmatic personality, which is the factor. Dogmaticindividuals having a highly organized set of attitudes which are resistant to change in thelight of new information. Intolerant thinkers.Another causal explanation for prejudice concerns frustration, defined as coming about dueto being unable to achieve a desirable goal: which Dollard et al(1939) claims leads toaggression and scapegoating. When we are frustrated they claim, we need to find a targeton which we can vent our feelings of anger. If the actual target is not a suitable target, wemay displace that anger on to some thing/other that we already feel negatively towards.Laboratory studies have shown this to be the case, Outside of the lab, Hovland andSears(1940) found that, as economic conditions worsened in southern states of America, theamount of reported lynching and general white on black violence,increased. It must be noted however that, although frustration may exacerbatediscrimination, it does not cause prejudice.The next type of theory we shall discuss, is that relating to social cognition. You mayremember than in the previous instalments of this series we noted that, as cognitive misers,we take short cuts and categorize information, with a prototype image defining the standard
of each category. We may recall a person’s characteristics as according to the gener
alcategory in which we place them. That is, we tend to recall through stereotypes. We alsotend to accept information which confirms the stereotype and refute information to thecontrary. Eg When a prejudiced person meets a pleasant and likeable member of therejected group, they are likely to dismiss that person as being the exception to the rule. Thestereotype remains unchanged and our beliefs self confirmatory.
 
According to Billig(1985), social cognition theories see stereotyping as inevitable. He acceptsthat it is certainly functional for us to categorise, though points out that we are capable of particularising.It is categorization which Tajfel(1982) lists as three aspects to prejudice, as part of his socialidentity theory. He claims that the mere categorisation of people is sufficient for
discrimination to occur. A second is ‘assimilation’ which refers to how children learn and
absorb the attitudes and values of the society in which they find themselves. The third is
‘search for coherence’ which re
fers to our need to understand and make sense of our world.One way of achieving this being the use of social representations which we discussed in partone.Social identity theory suggests that categorisation is used in order to enhance our self esteem. When comparing with others we tend to highlight those qualities which support ourin-group values (in-group favouritism), and point out any weaknesses that appear to exist inthe other group. (negative out-group bias)Ethnocentrism is when the in-group is consideredthe centre of the world and standard bearer, Some theorists suggest that mental illness isdefined in relation to white European norms. Pettigrew(1979) claims ethnocentrism as theultimate attributional bias because, group members see their own desirable behaviour asbeing dispositional ,whilst desirable behaviour of the out-group is considered as situational.The reverse holding true for undesirable behaviour.Another theory, which uses social representations as explanation suggests that prejudicedexplanations are derived from the norms of the community, or other social institutions of which the person is a part. The thought being that people are inclined to modify theirattitudes in line with that of those of whom they identify (peer/reference group). If ourreference group holds prejudice then we may be inclined to adopt these. If people conformto the norms of society they are in,prejudice may be maintained.Intergroup conflict may arise due to shortage of resources leading to competition. Thewinners may hold themselves as superior, and the losers take them as the enemy.. According to Deutsch(1973), there are three consequences of intergroup conflict.1) Communication becomes unreliable. Neither group trusts one another and both mayresort to propaganda.2) Perceptions of the members of each group become distorted, such that in-groupfavouritism and negative out-group bias occur.3) The belief develops that the only way to resolve conflict is through the use of superiorforce.Reducing prejudice is an important goal. Education is largely superfluous if parents areunwilling to drop their prejudicial beliefs. Intergroup contact may simply lead to moregroups being formed if not implemented carefully. One way to achieve intergroup harmonyis by way of games with superordinate goals. That is, goals which can only be achievedthrough cooperation.. Another facet of this is implementing a cooperative reward structure,rather than a competitive reward structure, in intergroup contacts- so that an individual canonly achieve success if the other also achieves success. Studies have also shown that whenchildren are asked to focus their attention on a member of another group byparticularisation, more similarities than differences are noted.Cook(1978) lists five factors necessary for prejudice reduction.

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