Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Some thoughts on Prejudice

Well I said I’d be back to do a bit more expanding. So here I am. The more I think about prejudice and stereotyping the more in depth and interesting it gets. I found a few sources with found a variety of definitions of prejudice.

  • “A negative feeling towards an individual based solely on his or her membership in a particular group.” (Baumeister & Bushman, 2007).
  • “An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.” (The American Heritage Dictionary)
  • “An irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.” (Merriam-Websters Dictionary of Law)
  • “An unfavourable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” ( Unabridged)

Today’s lecture gave us an opportunity to explore ways to overcome different prejudices. I am wondering if it is possible to eliminate prejudice on a global level. The more I thought about it the more I think it is highly unlikely. This led me to think about whether prejudice is innate. After tossing around a few thoughts I came up with a couple of theories. These are just my own ideas, so I would be glad to hear your thoughts on this.

Although I don’t think we have an innate desire to be prejudice I think we have a range innate desires that contribute to reasoning forming the affect, behaviours and cognitive components of prejudice. Based different definitions I’ve come up with a few innate and environmental factors that attempt to explore the origins of prejudice.

These innate desires might include

  • Feeling part of a group (this group could be self defined or defined by society)
  • Feeling of having power (may link to self esteem)
  • Competitiveness (wanting to be ‘better’ or the ‘winner’)
  • Personal characteristics and traits (the way we interrupt our experiences, tolerance)

These innate desires mix with environmental factors such as

  • Mainstream fashion, trends, culture, way of doing things
  • Upbringing
  • Influence of others/ media
  • Experience
  • Education/ exposure or lack of

These lists are far from definitive however it’s a start. The combination of innate and environmental factors can be the ultimate recipe for creating the ABC’s of prejudice. This is just a bit of an introduction to me getting my head around a small area of the topic. Hopefully as I continue researching and reading my understanding will continue to grow.
Any comments, questions, additions or ideas would be gladly received. Hope everyone is coping well during this busy time.


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

prejudice. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved August 22, 2007, from website:

prejudice. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. Retrieved August 22, 2007, from website:

prejudice. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved August 22, 2007, from website:

1 comment:

James Neill said...

Just a quick thought - the innate desires you list are very similar to McClelland's motivations - might be a link worth exploring.

I also think this exploration into "what is prejudice" is worthwhile because unless the concept is well defined, it can be difficult to discuss and agree on ways it can be overcome.