The following points highlight the five important theories of prejudice. The theories are: 1. Well Earned Reputation Theory 2. Scape-Goat Theory 3. Convergence Theory 4. Kranmer’s Theory 5. Psychoanalytical Theory.
Theory # 1. Well Earned Reputation Theory:
Developed by Zawdaki, this theory attempts to explain prejudices by putting emphasis on the influence of group and society. The members of a group having bad reputation are victimised by other groups. The Jews were made the victim of prejudicial aggression of other outgroups because some of their characteristics were not acceptable to the outgroups. This attitude is not rational and hence uncritical.
As per the well earned reputation theory, first, one has to know the objectionable characteristics of a group or nation through first hand contact so that it will lead to negative attitude. But Bogardus made a pioneer study in America on the order of preference of different nationalities by the Americans.
Result showed that the people of oriental nations, like Japan and India were put at the bottom of social distance scale. This indicates that the Americans showed prejudice to certain nationalities with whom they have no first hand immediate contact.
This theory, therefore, does not rationally explain the causes of prejudice. Rather it is not because of firsthand experience, but because of unfamiliarity and lack of direct contact of the Americans with Japanese and Indian nationalities.
Thus, the well earned reputation theory fails to explain:
(i) Rationally and objectively the fundamental basis of prejudice and hence, it is partial and irrational.
(ii) It also fails to explain the individual aspect of prejudice as though prejudice grows in the society, it lives in the minds of men.
Theory # 2. Scape-Goat Theory:
Doob, Sears and others have tried to explain the causes of prejudice from the clinical view point by the understanding of human dynamics.
According to this theory, when a person is frustrated too much, he displaces the hostility to a minority group. The minority or socially disapproved group is conveniently chosen as the target of attack.
In Nazy Germany, in the similar way, Jews were made the target of hostility and Scape-goats because they were thought to be the trouble makers of Germany. Similarly, Britain, France were chosen as the scape goaters after their attack to Egypt.
Apparently this theory seems to be exciting but just like the other theory it has some weaknesses.
(i) Why a particular group is made the target of attack out of many? This fact has not been explained by this theory.
(ii) The scape goat theory holds that the majority group has some prejudice towards the minority group. But the fact that the minority group also shows prejudice towards the majority group, is not explained by this theory.
Theory # 3. Convergence Theory:
Zawdski has tried to develop a third theory by reconciling the facts of the first two theories. He is of view that prejudices have certain subjective aspects i.e., the selection of a minority group for prejudice can be explained in terms of well earned reputation theory.
But the social aspect of prejudice from age to age indicates that it is a social phenomena. The conflict aspect of prejudice is based on economic, political or religious consideration, which may motivate a person to be aggressive, displace his aggression and become prejudiced towards the outgroup.
The convergence theory has tried to explain the persistence of prejudice. But some psychologists pointed out that the convergence theory over-emphasizes the conflict aspect of prejudice and fails to take note that prejudice is the product of social learning which starts from early childhood of an individual.
Secondly, they say that instead of considering the individual aspect of the prejudice as emphasized by the scape goat theory, the convergence theory takes note of group frustration to explain the underlying causes of prejudice. The convergence theory completely ignores the individual dynamics which constitute the group.
Theory # 4. Kranmer’s Theory:
This theory argues that our prejudice is the result of traumatic experience. But this theory does not explain why people have prejudices of whom they have no firsthand experience. Secondly, it does not explain why in the same society people have got different kinds of attitudes and beliefs.
Theory # 5. Psychoanalytical Theory:
Psychoanalysis and clinical findings point out that over prejudiced persons have repressed their hostility too much and they are dominated by castration anxiety and anal traits.
Allport in his Kurt Lewin Memorial address remarked that sources of prejudice have been taken to be by some to belong to individual psychology. He says that prejudice is a function of collective group structure and cannot be understood as personality dynamics.
Inspite of the diverse theories developed, all these discussions lead one to conclude safely that the underlying causes of prejudices are multidimensional.