Sunday, September 2, 2007

Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination in the modern world

Prejudice and Discrimination are closely related concepts, and the terms have become almost interchangeable in popular use. Social scientists, however, prefer to define the terms precisely. Crandall, Eshleman and O’Brien (2002) define prejudice as a negative evaluation of a group or of an individual on the sole basis of group membership. Discrimination is defined as the unequal treatment of different people based on the groups or categories to which they belong (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008).

Tired of witnessing discrimination and prejudicial attitudes, in 1968 American third grade teacher Jane Elliot trialed an experiment she had been thinking of for some time. The experiment segregated the children of her classroom based on eye colour. Children with brown eyes were the first group to experience being the ‘inferior’ group with the blue eyed children being ‘on top’. The following day the groups were reversed (Frontline, 1985). Today Jane Elliot is widely known and has carried out the experiment in many countries working mainly with adults. ‘Australian eye’ was one of Elliot’s seminars carried out in 2002 in Sydney, Australia. In this seminar the brown-eyed participants were ‘on top’ and the blue eyed participants were ‘inferior’. This gave minority groups such as Aboriginals a chance to voice their opinions and experience feelings of power, control and superiority. The seminar also gave blue eyed participants a chance to experience what it is like to be in a minority group. This was shown when one of the blue eyed participants nicknamed by Elliot as ‘Blondie’ made the comment “I have to conform to the way you want me to be, and not who I am” Elliot responded with “and what does that teach you?” Blondie replied “that I’m significant”. This comment had many of the brown-eyed participants who were looking on nodding as if to show that is how they feel everyday and not just when in a seminar.

In recent years people’s willingness to express prejudice has continued to decrease, attitudes toward racial and ethnic minorities as measured in surveys are becoming increasingly positive and less prejudiced (Crandall, Eshleman and O’Brien, 2002). However is prejudice really on the decline, or is it just changing its representation from overt prejudice to covert? Interpersonal or covert discrimination is subtle and therefore difficult to identify, assess, and eradicate. Contemporary discrimination research contends that although the incidence of major discriminatory acts and overtly prejudiced attitudes have dropped considerably, these actions and attitudes have been supplanted by everyday discrimination or more covert forms of prejudice that manifest in subtle, indirect discriminatory behaviours. Researchers suggest that socials norms and political correctness concerns have motivated this shift in the way prejudice and discrimination is expressed (King et al, 2006). The justification–suppression model proposes that genuine prejudice is followed either by justification or suppression factors leading an individual to (or not to) express this prejudice. According to the justification–suppression model, removing a perceiver’s justification for expressing prejudice should reduce the likelihood of discrimination. In response to this model, researchers have begun to develop measures of subtle discrimination and implicit prejudice, such as the Implicit Associations Test, priming measures, and measures of interpersonal nonverbal behaviours such as social distance, facial expressions, eye contact, eye blinking, and smiling. Nonverbal behaviours have received considerable attention because of their tendency to leak out and influence interaction. Kings findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing interpersonal discrimination should target individuals’ justifications for prejudices

Reducing prejudice
Plant and Devine (1998) argue that there are two main reasons for wanting to overcome prejudice. First is those internally motivated this refers to one’s dedication to equality and the belief that to be prejudiced is morally wrong. The other is those externally motivated where the individual is not motivated by a sincere change in their personal attitude; rather they are motivated by societal pressures and wanting to avoid social disapproval.

A study conducted by Greenwald, McGhee & Schwartz (1998) showed that people hold prejudiced attitudes towards particular social groups at the implicit or unconscious level, even though they honestly report having no prejudiced attitudes at the explicit or conscious level. To combat this attitude one must identify and consciously override their prejudice.

Contact hypothesis.
The contact hypothesis predicts that cooperative interaction with members of a disliked group
results in increased liking for those members and generalizes to more positive attitudes toward thegroup (Desforges et al 1991). Amir (1969) discusses the favourable conditions which tend to reduce prejudice through the contact hypothesis. These are (a) when there is equal status contact between the members of the various ethnic groups, (b) the contact must be positive, and (c) the out-group members must be perceived as being typical for their group. A meta-analytic review conducted by Pettigrew and Tropp (2006) concluded that contact under these conditions typically leads to even greater reduction in prejudice. The authors also add that the meta-analytic findings indicate these conditions are not essential for prejudice reduction. Therefore it is suggested that future work should also look at negative factors that prevent intergroup contact

Vicarious contact
Vicarious contact or the extended contact hypothesis proposes that the knowledge of an in-group member having a close relationship with an out-group member can lead to more positive intergroup attitudes. A study showed participants experienced less negative out-group attitudes when observing an apparent in-group-out-group friendship (Wright, Aron, McLaughlin-Volpe, & Ropp, 1997)

Covert expressions of prejudice
Overt forms of prejudice can be reduced through traditional techniques such as direct educational and attitude change techniques. Contemporary or covert expressions of prejudice however may require alternative strategies orientated towards the individual or involving inter group contact. Individual-orientated techniques can involve leading people to discover inconsistencies among their self-images, behaviours and values. Such inconsistencies can arouse negative emotional states (such as guilt) which motivate the development for more favourable attitudes. Intergroup strategies can involve structuring intergroup contact to produce more individualised perceptions of members of the other group. Showing inter-group contact can be effective in reducing covert expressions of prejudice also (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1999). Although automatically activated covert prejudice (e.g., eye contact, body posture, and speech errors) can bias behaviour, this effect is not obligatory. It depends on how aware people are of the possibility of bias, how motivated they are to correct potential bias, and how much control they have over their judgment or behaviour (Dasgupta & Rivera, 2006). In the documentary Australian Eye Jane Elliot states white people have certain freedoms. The first she says is “the freedom to be ignorant of people who are different from themselves”. The second is “the freedom to deny we’re ignorant”. In the case of covert prejudice Elliot’s point on ‘white freedoms’ implies one can choose to not be aware of biases they poses and have no desire, intention or motivation to become aware.

Discrimination in reverse
Discrimination in reverse is another technique known to reduce individual’s prejudicial attitudes and behaviours. A study conducted by Dutton and Lakes (1973) showed simply accusing someone of being prejudiced can cause them to exert themselves to prove the opposite. The authors define this ‘reverse discrimination’ as an attempt by a person who thinks racial prejudice is undesirable and who is threatened by the possibility that they themselves might be prejudiced to prove to themselves through their behaviour that they in fact are not prejudiced.

Superordinate goals
The interdependent learning environment developed to encourage cooperation is known as the jigsaw classroom. This technique has shown a decrease in racial prejudice, an increase in academic performance, and an increase in their belief that participants could learn from other group members. This study emphasises the power of superordinate goals in reducing prejudice (Aronson & Osherow, 1980).

Of all human weaknesses, none is more destructive of the dignity of the individual and the social bonds of humanity than prejudice. According to a variety of investigators, modern prejudice and discrimination has merely become more subtle. Many people carefully avoid overt expressions of prejudicial attitudes but covertly continue to harbour negative views of racial minorities (Dovitio & Gaertner, 1999). Through optimal contact, the conscious decision to override prejudice attitudes, vicarious contact, or education attitudes can be changed. The techniques of discrimination in reverse or the use of superordinate goals also help reduce prejudice and discrimination. The final comment made in Australian Eye by an Aboriginal man sums up the need for individuals to act on attitudes of prejudice and discrimination, “If we do nothing, nothing will change!”.



Amir, Y. (1969). Contact hypothesis in ethnic relations. Psychological Bulletin, 71, 319-342.

Aronson, E., & Osherow, N. (1980). Cooperation, prosocial behaviour, and academic performance: Experiments in the desegregated classroom. Applied Social Psychology Annual, 1, 163-196.

Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social Psychology and Human Nature (1st ed.) Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth

Cullen, P. (2002). Jane Elliot’s Australian Eye. Annamax Media Pty Ltd.

Crandall, C. S., Eshleman, A., & O’Brien, L. (2002). Social norms and the expression and suppression of prejudice: the struggle for internalization. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 82, 359-378.

Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (1999) Reducing prejudice: Combating intergroup biases. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 101-105.

Dusgupta, N., & Rivera, L. M. (2006). From automatic antigay prejudice to behaviour: the moderating role of conscious beliefs about gender and behavioural control. Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 91, 268-280.

Dutton, D. G., & Lake, R. A. (1973). Threat of own prejudice and reverse discrimination in interracial situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 94-100.

Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. K L. (1998). Measuring individual differences in
implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1464-1480.

King, E. B., Shapiro, J. R., Hebl, M. R., Singletary, S. L., & Turner, S. (2006). The stigma of obesity in customer service: a mechanism for remediation and bottom-line consequences of interpersonal discrimination. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 579-593.

Peters, W. (1985). Frontline: A class divided. Retrieved September 1, 2007, Web site:

Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751-783.

Plant, E. A., & Devine , P. G. (1998). Internal and external motivation to respond without prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 811-832.

Wright, S. C., Aron, A., McLaughlin-Volpe, T., & Ropp, S. A. (1997). The extended contact effect: Knowledge of cross-group friendships and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 73-90.

The readability of my blog was measured at 47.6 on the Flesch Reading Ease (this is within the recommended range of 42 or above) and 11.1 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (this is within the recommended range of 12 or below). This was calculated by using Microsoft Word’s Readability Statistics function. The essay has headings structured throughout to make the content easier to follow. The text is all the same size and colour (standard APA, times new roman font, in black, font size 10) this is done to enhance the readability of the blog. The concept map is improved by adding colour to the boxes enhancing the overall appeal of the chart. The concept map has been kept simple so the main points are clear and one can obtain the overall general idea of the topic quickly without becoming overloaded.

Self AssessmentTheory
I feel my blog covered the many approaches and models used when looking at reducing prejudice and discrimination. Additionally I feel appropriate definitions of all terms and concepts were listed to ensure appropriate depth and understanding to all readers. The theories were linked to the documentary ‘Australian Eye’ where relevant.Written expression
A readability analysis is provided as one of the appendix links. The APA style of the paper is moderate. I am not sure if my use of headings is correct formal APA style and the essay has not been double spaced. However the font is correct APA style as is the reference list. I have tried to make the essay and each section flow as well as possible without using up too many words (due to the word limit). I feel if an essay flows well it is much more enjoyable to read.

In the lead up to writing this essay I was very thorough in my reading and research so as to obtain the most comprehensive results. There were many articles that I read that I did not end up using as references however they worked very well as background reading.

Online Engagement
I have been reasonably active in my online engagement. The technical aspect was very difficult for me to grasp at first however perseverance paid off. My first blog was aimed at providing readers with information that I had researched and found interesting. The rest of my blogs were primarily written for readers to view my opinions and aspects about specific topics. I have made comments on others blogs and aimed to partake in surveys and quizzes other students had listed on their blogs. I feel had I been more competent and skilled at using online resources I may have been able to comfortable engage in posting blogs earlier, however I still feel I made a valuable contribution. In future I plan to make time to try and read and comment on more blogs, as well as do more research on interesting areas for the benefit of readers.


Orange said...

Official Essay Feedback

You have presented a well researched essay which you have obviously put a substantial ammount of effort into. I believe that just a careful restructure of the format of your essay discussion mirroring something like your concept map, would have boosted your written expression and may have also increased your theory and research marks a little bit extra also. An excellent piece of work. Congratulations.

You have successfully targetted key theories and orientated yourself within the literature. You managed to draw an important distinction between covert and overt discrimination and relate it to current research and interventions.

You have presented Jane Elliots woke in a susinct but highly accessable manner. You have highlighted a number of key pieces of research suggesting the efficacy of particular treatment techniques for both overt and covert discrimination.

Written Expression
Your writing style is highly developed. There were a few cases of missing full stops and a few sentences that didn’t seem to make sense, but on the whole it was wonderfully presented. Your introduction and conclusion were exceptionally well written and original. Several point in the body of your text could have been collapsed together (contact hypothesis and vicarious contact), and it was at times a little difficult to know whether you were talking about an overt or covert technique - I would have suggested moving this section right to the beginning then dividing your discussion based on this distinction. Finally your subheadings were not in italics, but your APA style was good in general.

Online Engagement
You have provided a series of well written and very informative posts which have attracted some attention and demonstrate your engagement with the online community. You have also found other students pages and commented on their topics. For extra marks I would suggest sharing a draft of your work (even just a plan) or sharing a few research papers (or suggesting some to others as comments).

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