Nov 8, 2017 in Sociology

Stereotype, Prejudice and Discrimination


People are prone to categorize other people all over the world. This process exists in every society. There are few common bases for such characterization. Age, race, and gender are the main criteria for such division. Essentially, it is possible to classify the stranger as Asian, Black, White, Latinos, male, female, child, adult etc., as soon as one take a look at the person. It is possible to process a huge amount of information about momentary encounters. We are thought to treat each person as the unique individual, but few seconds let us identify a stranger as an exponent of one category. In light of this, scientists insist that people do not follow this tip and routinely categorize people. This paper draws the purpose to find out the ways people use to identify other persons and real causes that prompt people to do it. Consequently, observing the stereotypes will lead to other social phenomena that impact either society or separate individual.

Stereotypes and Salience

Stereotype – is the general definition of a person due to typical features which characterize a member of his\her group. A stereotype is an oversimplified list of beliefs as for members of social stratums or groups they belong to. The tight list of perceived characteristics allows human to characterize another person in the way of attributing her\him to the particular group. Stereotypes describe usually incorrectly some ‘typical’ member of a social group. The stereotype characterization is based on the salience principle. This principle states around some events that are obvious or appear initially prominent. So, people are salient about them. For instance, a skin color is the obvious and salient characteristic. The skin color is the first thing that people notice. Therefore, the skin becomes the bases for stereotyping. In the USA a choice of salient characteristics is determined culturally. The nose, lips size and shape, hair texture, body structure or skin color are salient characteristics.

Kinds of Stereotypes

Stereotypes that are based on ethnicity or race are called racial – ethnic stereotypes. The stereotyping of Chinese as ignorant, dirty and untrustworthy in the USA is a bright example of this statement. Americans tend to think that Jews are materialistic and unethical; Italians are prone to crime, they are overly argumentative and emotionally etc. Racial – ethnic stereotypes lead to racism. Nonetheless, when we see Italian or Jew we attribute general features of the group to the definite person. Stereotypes, bias, prejudice and discrimination have illusory correlation with reality. Very often popular meaning of a group of people turns to be a false one.

The racism is divided into few types. There are historical, scientific, institutional and new racism. The historical racism identifies the population with the common origin in history. Adherents of this racial approach do not define the nation with a fixed biological character. They define commonly European nation, they have symbols (Nazi Eagle), and believe in superiority of the one nation. Scientific racism insists that all people might be characterized by certain physical traits. Followers of this approach support the hierarchy of one race. It means that one race should civilize and another justify for providing colonialism. Institutional racism intends protection of some dominant groups. It maintains unequal position of subordinate groups. The supporters of institutional racism systematically discriminate particular groups of people by certain social structures. New expressions, such as integration, cultural values, and immigrants input racial contest in our culture. New racism is the notion to determine cultural or other inferiorities (Hick, 2000).

Prejudice is the attitude towards the person being discriminated. Prejudice means commonly what you think about an adherent of some social group.

Discrimination is negative and irregular attitude of people to a member of some particular social group or stratum because of the very fact of their membership in a definite group or stratum. People tend to think that discrimination is an action and means what you do relatively to a deprived person. There are two minor types of discrimination. They are housing and income discrimination. The main difference between income discrimination and housing discrimination is their subordinating to law.

The discrimination means behavior, prejudice means attitude; the racism consists of either attitude or behavior (Andersen & Taylor, 281).

Psychological Theories of Prejudice

Why prejudice, racism and discrimination basically exist? Two categories of theories exist to explain the cause of their appearance in the society. The first category relates to Sociological Theories of the types of racism; it takes into account discrimination and institutional racism. The second category relates to Psychological Theories about prejudice. This way, theories of prejudice consist of two types, as well. They are Authoritarian and Scapegoat theories. The Scapegoat Theory describes the members of historically dominative group with their desire to get social and economic superiority over various minority groups. Such frustration brings aggression and anger in result. The members of minority groups become scapegoats and sustain the discrimination. For instance, White person was denied a job because of many Mexican Americans were permitted into the country, this person would become hostile and treat them as scapegoat. The central idea in Scapegoat Theory is the psychological principle that tells us about frustration which is often followed by aggression. The Authoritarian Theory argues that authoritarian personalities are more likely to be prejudiced against minority groups than individuals who do not have authoritarian personality. This theory researches individuals that are described by a tendency to share other people into categories. They also have an inclination to submit an authority, be very intolerant to ambiguity, rigidly conform and be inclined of superstition. The people belonging to this category have a tendency more often stereotype and rigidly characterize the members of minority groups. Virtually, the Authorization Theory directly relates with high religious orthodoxy and extreme political conservatism.

Sociological theories of prejudice are currently explaining appearance of prejudice and varieties of its forms. These theories examine particularly the institutional racism. Three types of theories present the sociological approach of prejudice investigation. They are the Functionalist Theory, Symbolic and Conflict Theories.

To begin with functionalist theory, which argues that ethnic and race relations are functional to society, these relations contribute to stability and harmonious relations among members of different groups of society. Functionalist Theory insists that minorities must assimilate into the definite society. Assimilation means economical, cultural and social absorption within the dominant society. The Symbolic Interaction Theory describes two main issues. It shows social and ethnic interaction in reducing hostility and construction of these events in the definite society. Symbolic Interaction Theory is looking for the answer per question about interaction between two adherents of different social groups and how it can reduce hostility and solve the racial conflicts. The fundamental part of Conflict Theory is class – based conflicts. The Conflict theorists identify that racial and ethnic conflicts are tied to class conflicts and might be solved by reducing a class inequality.

The Causes of Prejudice

The above theories are discovering prejudice, the reasons of its existence and ways to solve the interaction conflicts. However, what is the real reason, why does a prejudice appear? Great part in this process plays social leaning. (Children imitate parents’ and friends’ behavior so as to learn a prejudice.) There exists the Motivational Theory that makes people to deal with bias. Those people who are going to achieve success obtain negative thoughts about competitors. This prompts people to generalize that thought about all members of the group presented by competitor. People often develop prejudice because of experience they have during their development. For example, a person reared by the bald-headed man, who used to punishment may develop bias against all bald-headed men. The cognitive dissonance is another reason, why people have prejudice. It means that people have different thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially relating to attitude changes and behavioral decisions. Therefore, people conceptualize their world using some mental shortcuts to organize it, e.g. all American people are overweight; all Russian drink vodka; all homeless people are alike etc.  

Elimination of Prejudice

Prejudice might be eliminated in several ways. The first way is an acquainting prejudiced people with the members of minority groups they are prejudiced against, and teach them to think rationally and make conclusions from their own experience not from whose words. The Contact Theory tells that interaction between Whites and representative members of minorities might reduce the prejudice in both groups. It is possible to get this goal, if only three conditions are met. The contact should be between individuals of equal status on an equal ground. The interaction should be sustained. The short conversation cannot decrease the prejudice. Daily contact of two individuals, who are belonging to different ethnic or social groups, will destroy the prejudice. The other condition of beneficial destroying the prejudice is equally agreed social norms by participants.


This essay presents to reader different types of stereotypes as a popular belief about specific features of people that belong to specific social group. On the basis of stereotypes, there appear prejudices, discrimination and racism. There is some chain about these phenomena. The prejudice is an attitude, the discrimination is an action, and racism is a directed negative treatment for racial or ethnic groups. Consequently, racism includes either attitude or behavior.

Religious, racial, political or other prejudices make a ground for international misunderstanding. Stereotypes, bias, prejudice and discrimination have illusory correlation with reality. That is why they lead people to misunderstanding and racial wars. Therefore, it is very important to know how to avoid and prevent stereotype creation.

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