Here is an essay on ‘Prejudice’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Prejudice’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Prejudice
- Essay on the Meaning of Prejudice
- Essay on the Classification of Prejudice
- Essay on the Maintenance of Prejudice
- Essay on the Techniques for Measuring Prejudice
- Essay on an Indian Study on Prejudice
- Essay on the Approaches to Reduce Prejudice
Essay # 1. Meaning of Prejudice:
The term prejudice is also rather difficult to define since it is used in many contexts. First of all the term has a negative connotation. Generally we say that a person is prejudiced if he has got an unfavourable opinion about a person or a group. Prejudice also implies that it is irrational; it implies that the opinion or judgment is formed before a thoughtful examination of the pertinent facts; that it is unfair and a hasty judgment.
Among the outstanding features of prejudice are:
(1) it is an inter- group phenomenon;
(2) it has a negative orientation;
(3) it is an attitude.
Thus, prejudice may be defined as a negative attitude towards a socially defined group. Generally most members of a given group have prejudice not only to the other group as a whole but to the members forming that group. For example, a Hindu looks upon himself not as an individual, but also as a member of the Hindu group; he tends to look upon another person not only as an individual but as a member of, for instance, the Muslim group.
This is how the problems of intergroup prejudice arise. We perceive ourselves as members of a given group; we perceive others as members of the other group and attribute to them all the characteristics which the members of our group attribute to the members of that group. In other words, we neither perceive ourselves as individuals, nor perceive others as individuals. Our frame of reference is always in terms of a group unless we take special efforts to dissociate ourselves from such frames of reference.
Essay # 2. Classification of Prejudice:
The explanations of prejudice may be classified into two groups according to the level of analysis.
It may be at the societal level or at the individual level:
(a) Societal Level:
The societal level explanations try to elucidate how prejudice develops in a given social system.
It is well known that according to Karl Marx prejudice results from exploitation. It arises when the members of one group try to gain some advantage by oppressing another group. The ‘haves’ try to enrich themselves by exploiting the ‘have-nots.’ The hypothesis also explains the negative attitudes toward the minority groups.
Another explanation is that prejudice arises from negative interdependence. This view implies that intergroup relations could be viewed along a positive-negative continuum. When the intergroup relations are positively interdependent, they are cooperative, having compatible goals. But when there is either dominance of one group over the other, or when the two groups compete with each other they are negatively interdependent.
According to Cambell (1965), real conflict of interests leads to perception of threat; real threat causes hostility toward the sources of threat. Psychological evidence in favour of the realistic-group-conflict theory is based on stereotypes. Indians became hostile to Chinese as a result of the 1959 Sino-Indian conflict.
Sherif et al (1961) have also shown how prejudices and group conflicts arise and how they can be surmounted by directing the efforts of both the groups to superordinate goals which necessitate intergroup cooperation, that is, positive interdependence. Thus, the realistic-group-conflict theory postulates that prejudice arises from intergroup conflict or competition.
(b) Individual Level Explanations:
These explanations are concerned with causes of prejudices at the personality level. They are based on the forces which impinge directly on people to make them prejudiced.
According to what may be termed as symptom theories, prejudice is only a sign of deeper personality conflicts or maladjustments. Deutsch and Krauss (1965) have described the psychoanalytic theory of prejudice. Freud maintained that conflicts between the three structures of personality, namely, the id, the ego and the super-ego give rise to prejudices.
Dollard et al (1939) put forward, what may be called, the scapegoat theory of prejudice, according to which there is a “displacement” when there is frustration. The hostility aroused by frustration is directed towards another, non-offending, person. The boy who is angry with his mother may express his hostility by hitting his younger brother.
According to this view the “free-floating aggression” is directed toward a minority group; frustration thus is looked upon as an important cause of prejudice toward out groups. Another set of views trace the origin of prejudice to another defense mechanism, namely, projection. A person may attribute some undesirable impulse in him to another person.
Next there is the “authoritarian-personality” explanation of prejudice. The study showed that the prejudiced subjects tend to report a relatively harsh and threatening type of home discipline; harsh, domineering, status-conscious parents cause prejudice in their children to out groups.
Another set of views at the individual level stress the socio-cultural factors; they conceive of prejudice as an attitude which is learned; or less directly, as something which arises when a person interacts with his social environment. Some lay emphasis on socialization, the process by which a child is indoctrinated into his culture.
Thus, he learns the culturally accepted attitudes toward the various groups. This view is supported by the studies of ratings of national and ethnic groups in United States. A similar pattern of prejudice has been found for different sub-populations over the past 40 years.
This shows that prejudice is acquired in the same way as other aspects of culture, namely, by the learning of group norms, through rewards and punishments. Prejudice is also conveyed through “modeling effects” or imitation. “Identification” is another process.
Apart from socialization process, there is the “conformity” process. Conformity is the adoption of outward behaviour as a result of some external pressures. Studies show that a person’s ethnic attitudes are about the same as those which he perceives to be held by his reference group.
Thus, prejudice may be fostered at the societal level and also at the personal level. Probably prejudice toward the out-groups is generally acquired by means of socialization and conformity to group standards. The societal forces and the individual forces may supplement each other to strengthen prejudice in the individual.
Essay # 3. Maintenance of Prejudice:
Factors in Social Structure:
When the prejudice and discrimination against an out-group are well established, they tend to acquire the quality of norms. They are shared by the members of the in-group; so the members expect each other to hold such attitudes. In other words, there is conformity to group norms.
The factors underlying conformity to the norms of prejudice may be explained in terms of varying reward- punishments ensuing from conformity or nonconformity. A friendly attitude toward members of the discriminated group may lead to disapproval and other sanctions by the members of the group. These social forces contribute to the reduction of interaction with members of the out group and increase the power of the members of the in group to enforce conformity.
This may be reinforced by the emergence of leaders who support the prejudice norms. It is also possible that only those persons who support the prejudice norms may be returned in the elections to the legislature and other bodies.
The personal experiences may reinforce the group norms. This may happen when competition is most severe and one’s status is threatened. Those who are low in status in the in-group and have very little chance for improving their own position are likely to believe that they have much to gain by maintaining prejudice and discrimination against the out-group.
As seen above the authoritarian personality pattern appears to be specially suited to form and maintain prejudice toward the out-groups. Prejudiced persons also assume that there is belief dissimilarity between the in-group and the out-group.
During the thirties and forties the dissimilarities between the Hindus and the Muslims were greatly emphasised. This helped to increase hostility between the two groups. Thus, a variety of personality needs may support prejudice.
Attitudes toward minority or majority groups may become part of a cultural ideology; a complex of ideas, attitudes, and beliefs closely associated with cultural values may be developed. It is such cultural factors that led to the two-nation theory during forties and to the partition of the country.
The same factors probably worked and brought about the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Such cultural factors are mainly responsible for socialization, which leads to the deep-rooted formation of prejudice during childhood.
Thus, attitude toward minority groups are ultimately woven into a cultural complex of ideas, attitudes and beliefs closely associated with the cultural values. The widespread existence of such ideologies helps to support and maintain prejudice and promote discriminating practices.
Thus, the factors responsible for maintenance of prejudice could be studied at three levels; the social structure, the individual personality dynamics and the culture.
Essay # 4. Techniques for Measuring Prejudice:
Since prejudice is an attitude, the various techniques described to measure attitude are applicable to the measurement of prejudice also.
Most often the self-report techniques are used, namely the Likert technique of summated ratings, the Thurstone technique of psychophysical scale, the Bogardus social distance scale and the Osgood semantic deferential technique. But the most widely used techniques are those developed by Likert and Bogardus, though the other two techniques developed Thurstone and Osgood are really more perfect.
The projective techniques are used fairly widely. But they are time- consuming, difficult to interpret and not so reliable as the self-rating techniques.
Actual observation of overt behaviour, though more reliables than all the other methods, is very difficult. Recently Mehrabian (1968) has tried to develop procedures which will enable us to record these observations objectively, by using such variables as distance, eye contact, and body relaxation.
Essay # 5. An Indian Study on Prejudice:
Venkatasubrahmanyan (1967) attempted to reduce prejudice toward the Hindi language, the Northerners and the Brahmin caste among the South Indian college students. He used a self-rating scale to measure the attitudes toward language groups, regional groups and caste groups and selected for study two groups, one group low in prejudice and another high in prejudice, besides a third control group.
He used four techniques for reducing prejudice, namely, classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning, modelling influence and self-counter-conditioning. In the classical conditioning method he displayed the names of five language groups, five regional groups and five caste groups in a box and a pleasant word was uttered by the experimenter when each card was presented.
The subject was instructed to silently repeat the word given by the E four times as he looked at the stimulus word displayed in the box. In instrumental conditioning there was reinforcement by approval statements by E when the statements were positive and disapproval when the statements were negative.
In the modelling influence method, each subject was asked to name two persons within the group whom he accepted as a model; the S and the model sat together and discussed their attitude toward the various groups; the model was instructed to influence the S so that he becomes more favourable to the group under discussion. In the self-counter- conditioning through role-playing method the S was asked to imagine that he was participating in a debate and was asked to take the role- of the proponent of the group under study.
The results showed that of 78 high prejudiced anti-Hindi persons 30 had changed [to no prejudice; of the 76 anti-Northerners, 37 had changed to no prejudice and of 58 anti-Brahmin subjects 18 had changed. Thus, out of 212 high prejudice subjects, 85 hand changed significantly.
As regards the methods, it was found that the most effective methods were self-counter-conditioning through role-playing and modelling influence in that order and the other two methods, namely, instrumental conditioning and classical conditioning were the least effective. He also found that those who had participated in two or more methods reduced their prejudice considerably while those participating in only one method hardly showed any change.
Thus, a multiple approach appears to be necessary to reduce prejudice. Finally, he found that the changes induced were enduring and showed themselves when the subjects were retested on the attitude scale after a couple of months; those who changed from high prejudice to no prejudice after the experimental sessions did not revert back to high prejudice in the retest after a couple of months.
These are very significant findings. It is to be hoped that more studies of this kind are undertaken to determine the influence of various methods of prejudice reduction and to analyse the variables involved so that it is possible to develop action programmes in the schools and in the youth clubs.
Essay # 6. Approaches to Reduce Prejudice:
I. Symptom-Theory Approach:
The symptom theories maintain that prejudice is caused and kept alive by psychological conflict in the individual. Those who accept these theories tend to solve the problem of reduction by using techniques that will reduce the conflicts within the personality. They emphasize psychotherapy, self-insight training, changes in child-rearing practices etc.
The aim of psychotherapy is to increase the integration of personality which in its turn will bring down the hostility toward out groups. However, it is obvious that individual psychotherapy is out of question to solve a social problem. Group therapy might offer some scope, particularly coupled with contact with the members of the out- group. But studies using these techniques with before and after measures of prejudice are yet to be made.
As regards self-insight training, since prejudice is largely ego-defensive, providing insight into the dynamics of prejudice may help in the reduction of prejudice. Katz et al (1956) made the subject read an essay which described scapegoating, projection and compensation and their relation to anti-minority attitudes with a case history.
It was found that self-insight was more effective than the statement of simple facts in changing a person’s attitudes. Other studies suggest that the subjects may have changed their attitude because prejudice was not consistent with their self-image.
Another important method to reduce intergroup prejudice is to bring about changes in child-rearing practices in view of the authoritarian- personality explanation of prejudice. Harsh authoritarian practices which produce insecure, maladjusted children must be abandoned and children should be treated in an egalitarian and tolerant fashion.
Amelioration of the threatening aspects of the economic and social systems would remove the dynamic source of prejudice. However, it must be borne in mind that prejudice is related to feelings of deprivation and fear of unemployment. Further, social and economic changes are part of a long-term strategy in the fight against prejudice.
II. Socio-Cultural Approach:
So far we have considered the methods of reducing prejudice on the basis of symptom-theory approach. Now we may consider the methods of reducing prejudice on the basis of socio-cultural approach.
Basically, there are two approaches here:
(1) Providing information, and
(2) Changing the patterns of intergroup interaction.
There are two main avenues for conveying information which will hopefully offset the misinformation provided during socialization by parents, peer groups etc. One source of providing information is through the mass media, and the other is through education.
Messages through the mass media are not very effective in reducing prejudice since the general tendency of people is either to avoid receiving them or to evade them by judging the message as being invalid; or they may misperceive and utilize the anti-prejudice facts to fit their own intolerant frame of reference.
However, propaganda should not be dismissed because of this. It is effective among the people who are already low in prejudice and when it is used in conjunction with other techniques of attitude change.
Generally studies show that persons who are well-educated are less prejudiced than those who are not. But such correlational data do not help us to assert that education is casually related to the decrease in prejudice. Persons with better education differ from those with less education in a number of other variables like intelligence, income, social status etc.
It is possible that the better-educated are less prejudiced because of their higher socio-economic status. Stember (1961) found that less-educated persons tended to hold traditional stereotypes, to advocate discriminatory practices and to reject casual contacts with minority-group members. He thinks that the chief effect of education is to reduce traditional provincialism and to diminish fear of casual personal contact.
He, however, reports that while education makes people accept legal equality of all groups, it does not necessarily promote full social participation with all groups. One significant finding is that the ethnic attitudes of better-educated people are not as stable as those of the less-educated persons; this may be because they are more receptive to some types of propaganda or because they have greater opportunities for contact with minorities.
Can intergroup education programmes reduce prejudice? Harding et al (1969) report that while most studies of such programmes show that they are effective, some do not. It appears as if more than the educational programme itself it is the high credibility of the source of the message, roleplaying, contact with out-group members, which appear to be more important. Thus, more research is needed to understand the influence of the specific variables.
Changing Patterns of Intergroup Interaction:
Those who believe that prejudice can be explained in terms of socio-cultural factors believe that in addition to providing information through propaganda and education, attempts must be made to change the pattern of intergroup interaction.
Intergroup contact used to be considered an effective method. When persons of various groups live together, they can personally realize the lack of validity of the stereotypes. These experiences will make them hold more consistent attitudes toward the out-groups. But the problem arises where the prejudiced persons come into contact with members of the out-group whose behaviour confirms the stereotypes.
Rosenthal and Jocobson (1968) have shown how teachers’ expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies in the classroom and thus reinforce their stereotypes about the backwardness of the minority groups.
When the contact is between persons of the same socio-economic status, friendly relations may be promoted more effectively; but when the prejudiced persons of superior socio-economic status have contact with members of the minority groups who are inferior in socio-economic status, then the stereotypes may be reinforced. This is one of the important reasons for the perpetuation of stereotypes among the upper class Hindus against poor Muslims, poor Harijans, etc.
The Role Interpretation:
Secord and Backman (1964) have said that prejudice may be reduced when a member of the minority group occupies two in-compatible roles. For example, black people in U.S. are expected to be lazy because of their low social position. But when a black person is a co-worker he is expected to be energetic.
The role expectation of a co-worker may gradually modify the minority group expectation. Thus, according to the role interpretation, contact destroys only those stereotypes relevant to the contact situation.
The Consistency Game:
Brehm and Cohen (1962) suggested that Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance is of help to understand this problem. By coming into close proximity with Harijans, the initial dissonance may be reduced. Next there may be a change in stereo- types, that is, a favourable attitude toward them may be developed. Thirdly, a generalization of a more favourable attitude towards the whole group may be expected.
This is the technique used by Gandhi to reduce prejudice against Harijans. He made the Harijans to live in the “ashram” and follow all the rules. By this means he was able to make the Congress workers to develop favourable attitudes toward the group as a whole by breaking down the stereotypes in a limited way with respect to the contact group at the first instance.
The Shared-coping approach was suggested by Allport (1958) and by Sherif (1961). It assumes that intergroup contact which involves shared goals and shared coping to achieve these goals tend to reduce prejudice. A shared goal will make the two groups interdependent. Shared coping also involves interdependence; the members of the two groups will have to work together to achieve the goal.
This intergroup interdependence will promote the unlearning of stereotypes and set the consistency-game mechanisms in operation. Both these will increase friendliness and promote cohesion of the two groups.
The 1967 survey sponsored by the American Civil Rights Commission revealed that the white adults who had attended desegregated schools more often had close friends who were black, were more likely to have black people visit their homes and were more in favour of desegregated housing than those who attended segregated schools.
Thus, the socio-cultural explanations of prejudice appear to be useful in bringing about a change in intergroup relations. But it must be recognized that the problem is highly complicated. The basic fact is that prejudice is built in through socialization and the problem can be successfully attacked only through a fundamental change in the parents themselves and in their methods of child upbringing.