This is my own editorial about the subjects of Stereotyping, Prejudice, Empathy, Discrimination and the Authoritarian Personality - which I wrote in regard to my psychology qualification I was taking at the time.
Firstly, let’s begin on ‘Stereotyping’. This term is defined as views being held by people about certain groups of other people according to their physical shape, their religious beliefs and their ethnic background. It can be generalised as an oversimplified opinion of others.
As a crude example, you could give a negative stereotype to a group of football supporters congregating outside a pub - they being classed as boisterous, intimidating, rude and aggressive.
But on the other hand - you could have a positive stereotype of another set of people. A case in point being the medical profession - with nurses at its head. You'd have a positive opinion of them, as generally they're seen as being compassionate, kind and helpful.
A Stereotyping Study
Rubin et al. 1977. This study was done in an attempt to see if parents stereotyped their babies.
The study found that the parents’ view of their baby girls was - they were seen as being soft and fragile. While the baby boys were seen as being highly responsive, tough and durable.
So as a pretext, parents seem to stereotype their babies due to the ‘sex’ of their offspring. They buy applicable clothes, toys and prepare living space according to their stereotypical views of their babies’ sex.
Nevertheless, we need to get into the practical implications of stereotyping. And what influences, say from the media and society values - and how they can have an impact.
For instance, the way the media portrays celebrities these days has changed radically from sixty years ago. The term ‘Celebrity’, in the middle and early 20th century, was defined as someone having a creative and important role - say being an actor, writer, a director or a rock musician. You had to have had a talent which singled you out as being intelligent and important. Nowadays, with the concept of the 'Reality ‘Celebrity', children are exposed to a fake optimism.
These so-called people in the entertainment profession with no specified talent; apart from being in a real life situation - sadly, are the norm these days. And accordingly, TV producers and executives have leapt onto this twisted idea and made countless television shows: an example being the ‘Big Brother’ show – which unfortunately has spawned a whole generation of other reality shows to follow in its wake.
With this in mind, it’s a disturbing aspect to our society, as children look up to these shallow reality show individuals as stereotypes and want to be famous just like them, but without the concept of the hard work that was once needed. You could reason that this is the throwaway concept of the ‘soulless role model’ which exists in our society today.
This viewpoint brings us neatly onto using the negative effects of stereotyping - and to go against the flow, using the positive aspects of stereotyping in our lives
Stereotyping can help with making quick decisions, which is important for our safety. If you are walking along a road at night and see a group of ‘Teenage Hoodies’, because of the stereotyping associated with them: recklessness, criminality, thievery, you probably would avoid them. On the other hand, to counter this, because of this ‘negative stereotype’ your opinion is biased and you would not appreciate any positive attributes, like say if you were to lose your way. You could've approached this group and asked for directions, and they may have been perfectly amicable in helping you.
So stereotyping is like a pendulum, which can swing our viewpoint from one set of values, and back to a new set of values according to a generalised view. Moreover, the long lasting effects on future generations: say for example the fear of ‘Teenage Hoodies’, and the shallowness of the reality celebrity could be hard to eradicate. And this may have serious consequences to how all of us interact in our society - which is already fractured and disorganised.
Prejudice is a rigid set of beliefs attributed to certain groups of people and discrimination is a prejudiced view of individuals.
As an example, age is being used these days in the television industry in regard to female presenters. After the age of 45 they are deemed unworthy to the viewers’ eye. This is a ridiculous male executive prejudice and is without basis.
Margaret Thatcher was well into her middle fifties when she became Prime Minister, and she was deemed pleasing to the eye by her contemporaries - mind you this was only relevant when she first entered Downing Street.
The view of her changed dramatically while into her premiership. She was later classed as being uncompromising. This had a knock on affect in the way older women are perceived - and how older women are positioned in the political and television arenas by ‘The Powers That Be’ today. Nevertheless, we do have laws in place about discrimination and there have been a number of high profile Court Cases: one involved the female presenter of a BBC show.
That being said, more older women have taken television and other industry bosses to court and won - against the prejudice and discrimination they faced.
A Prejudice Study
A study by Barrett And Shore (1992), decided to investigate how prejudice occurred amongst young children, and if any influences may have been behind their views.
216 children were interviewed about their opinions and views about people from other European countries.
The study found that the children, even at the age of ten, had already developed prejudiced views. The children deduced that people from France were the most pleasing - while people from Germany were the most disliked.
This is an interesting study as the children may not of had any background information about these countries’ peoples.
So we have to ask, why did these children hold such views? Well there are the parental influences for example - they could have biased their children’s view about Germans by the way they were viewed as tourists in Europe.
German tourists always seem to grab the sun beds, beside many European hotels’ swimming pools. Also, there are the children’s grandparents influences to take into account. The German atrocities in World War II would of made unpalatable listening to any children’s ears.
And with World War II, we can bring in the argument about why the French had a positive aspect on the children. One reason could have been the stories about the ‘French Resistance’ and its bravery against the German Nazi occupation. This would have given the children a constructive view about the French.
Authoritarian Personality: The Adorno Study (1950)
People with an Authoritarian Personality are susceptible to being prejudiced.
Adorno wanted to see if a person’s personality could have prejudiced beliefs. He used a questionnaire called the ‘F-Scale’ to measure this. He found after interviewing hundreds of people using the ‘F-scale questionnaire, that people with an 'Authoritarian Personality' were predisposed to being prejudiced and have unpleasant personality traits.
Adorno did this research to find out, for instance, why during World War II, Nazi soldiers became so sadistic and fetid in their treatment of the Jews, the mentally ill, and the disabled. The Adorno study found that someone with an ‘Authoritarian Personality’ trait stuck rigidly to traditional beliefs and values, were susceptible to those in higher authority - and were stubborn to any change. In addition, their parents were critical and cruel.
I myself, have criticisms of Adorno’s research’. After investigation I found the ‘F-Scale’ questionnaire was easier to answer ‘yes to’ rather than ‘no to.’ Also, the ‘Authoritarian Personality’ has a flaw. Not all people born into an inflexible, stern parental structure would develop an ‘Authoritarian Personality’. And vice versa - some people who are brought up in a loving, considerate and ideal family unit may develop an ‘Authoritarian Personality’.
Prejudice and Discrimination Between Groups
Sherif (1961) And the Robbers’ Cave Experiment.
This study was done in an effort to see how groups would react if they had to compete over scarce resources. Sherif used an American Summer Camp situation in Oklahoma.
The boys were split into two groups, and the two groups gradually attained their own identity. Next a competition was introduced, where both groups had to battle for a prize. Rapidly, and due to their own group identity – both groups of boys became hostile to each other. Sherif concluded that competition caused prejudice.
Loosely we could attribute ‘Sherif’s study’ to the current 2010 to 2015, British Conservative and Liberal Democrat collation government, which is collapsing amongst bitter recriminations. Many times cabinet staff bicker over funding for their different departments. And this leads to prejudice against each other – with briefings to different press organizations.
Nevertheless, with that point aside there are flaws in Adorno’s experiment.
Adorno only used boys in the study; would the results be replicated with females? Also, the boys were from middle-class families, consequently the poverty aspects were not taken into account. Ethnic minorities were also not used in the study. Would they have behaved differently?
Moreover, because the boys were American, different nationalities may of reacted and behaved in another way. For example, the poor in India seem to integrate and are more inclined to work together – rather than compete aggressively. This may be down to the extreme poverty and that resources in India are indeed limited.
Because of the ‘Adorno experiment’, and since it defines between different groups - we come to another factor: The ‘In-group’ and ‘Out-group phenomena’.
‘In-groups’ are people you consider to have something familiar with, and ‘Out-groups’ are people who you consider irrelevant and unpalatable.
Tajfel conducted a study to show how people in ‘In-groups’ discriminate against ‘Out-groups’. He used boys, aged between 14 and 15, and indiscriminately positioned them in two groups. The boys were each given an activity to perform. Consequently, due to the nature of the experiment - a game which involving numbered cards - the boys in the ‘In-groups’ gave themselves a higher score, regardless if this was the goal of the game’s outcome.
Thus, they discriminated against the other boys in the ‘Out-group’ just to spite and antagonise them.
Even so, in my estimate, Tajfel’s study was conducted in an artificial set-up and therefore the ecological-validity aspect could not be taken into account because it was not a real life situation. Also, the age of the boys were 14 and 15, and there were no females. Would the same results have been replicated if the opposite sex was used?
How can we reduce Prejudice and Discrimination?
With the evidence from Sherif’s experiments about prejudice and discrimination we can examine and study the results from ‘Aronson (2000)’. He achieved positive results with his own research. The technique given to his experiment was the ‘Jigsaw Method’, which main aim was to reduce prejudice amongst ethnic groups.
Individual ethnic students were given a topic in which they became knowledgeable. They then gave an educated talk on their topic to the other students within the group. After the experiment had taken place, ‘Aronson’ found that prejudice, discrimination, and the perception of the racial minorities amongst the white-members of the group had been improved.
However, under closer inspection, when the ‘white members’ of the group finished ‘Aronson’s’ experiment and departed from the classroom environment - the racial prejudice seemed to re-enter back into the fray and also discrimination occurred. As a result, only under the controlled ‘Aronson environment’ of the classroom was his research valid.
Evidence From the Elliot and Harwood Studies
Both of these experiments were used to create empathy, using psychological understanding as the tool. Its aim was to make people appreciate and empathize about how discriminated groups feel - and how they would react if subjected to the same bigotry.
After Martin Luther King was assaaninted, Elliot (1970), wanted to see how her young pupils felt to be the victims of discrimination.
She told her blue-eyed pupils in the experiment that they were clever and more important than the pupils with brown-eyes.
Also, that her blue-eyed children were superior in physical aspects. She told the brown-eyed children in the group that they could not interact with the blue-eyed children because they were inferior.
This experiment caused an immediate effect on the blue-eyed children; they became aggressive, happy and felt significant. But the brown-eyed children became depressed, withdrawn, and uncertain.
The next day the roles were reversed in the experiment. And the same results occurred, but this time it was the brown-eyed children who experienced the same emotions that the blue-eyed children had experienced the previous day.
Elliot concluded that getting children to experience at first hand the ‘effects’ of discrimination – would make them, when they progressed into adulthood, more sympathetic to those groups who experienced prejudice and inequality.
In a summing up of ‘Elliot’s study’, I found her research had an ethical aspect to it. It was unacceptable to practice this on young children. There could have been a conflict of interests with the parents, who may not of allowed this procedure to take place. Nevertheless, in spite of this point, when the pupils were contacted later on into their lives - they had developed significant empathy towards other people who suffer discrimination. While other pupils who had not taken part Elliot’s study - did not have the same levels of empathy.
Copyright (c) Nathan Toulane 2017