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Essay outline – “Reduction of Prejudice”

Prejudice: when we allow our stereotypes to affect our attitude.

Prejudice is an attitude whereas discrimination is a behavior. The term prejudice refers to the general attitude structure and its affective component. Prejudice can in fact be either negative or positive. Specifically, prejudice is defined as a hostile or negative attitude toward people in a distinguishable group. When the prejudiced attitude leads to prejudiced action, this is called discrimination. The origin of prejudice and discrimination is conflict and stereotype.

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A stereotype is a generalization about a particular group of people in which identical characteristics are assigned to all members of that group, regardless of any variation among group members. However, there are a variety of different factors that could reduce prejudice and discrimination:

Co-operation over superordinate goals can reduce prejudice. A superordinate goal is a goal that neither group can achieve separately, but can achieve together since it is bigger than or more important than other lesser goals. This idea is supported by a study by Sherif, the Robber’s Cave Experiment (1958).

The aim of this study was not only to find out how the hostility relates to the amount of conflict but also to see if superordinate goals reduce the conflict and prejudice. He had 20 boys of the age of 11 to 12 who had similar backgrounds and were considered normal and ordinary. The study was carried out in Robber’s Cave State Park, Oklahoma. The boys stayed at the camp, which was called a boy scout camp, for 3 weeks and were randomly divided into two groups.

Argument 1: Co-operation over superordinate goals reduces prejudice. (pursuit of common goals)

Superordinate goal: a goal that neither group can achieve separately, but can achieve together since it is bigger than or more important than other lesser goals.

Sherif’s Robber’s Cave experiment (1958)

  • Hypothesis: more intense competition (conflict�), more hostility. But when conflicts are reduced, hostility would decrease and cooperation will increase.
  • Methods: Design: A field experiment

Participants: 20 boys, 11~12 years old with similar backgrounds and same grade level. They were considered normal and ordinary.

Materials: A boy scout camp in the Robber’s Cave, State Park, Oklahoma.

Procedure: 1. Evenly distributed boys, divided into 2 groups named ‘Eagles’, ‘Rattlers’. Boys didn’t know about each other’s group. They were completely separated.

2. (Phase 1, preliminary/pre-test phase) Sherif sets up games for each group. The boys got to know the members of their own group. Leader emerged. (�for loyalty, commitment, identification)

3. (Phase 2, competitive/hostility phase) Boys meet each other. Sherif gives them conflict saying the winning team wins a prize. The boys became hostile, called names, burned flags, carried out raids, fist fought. They also praised their own members.

4. (Phase 3, superordinate goals)

3 superordinate goals were given:

a. Truck was stuck in the mud,

b. water supply was cut,

c. the boys were brought to the movies and were asked to collect money.

The boys became less hostile and started making friends.

  • Results: in the hostility phase, 93% had friends within their own group, after the cooperation phase, 30% had friends between the two groups. Before the cooperation phase, Eagles: 7%, Rattlers: 5% had friends in the other group. After the cooperation phase, Eagles: 25%, Rattlers 37% had friends in the other group.
  • Evaluation: (+) high ecological validity (field exp.)

(-) had no consent � ethical issues

(-) Gender & culturally biased. Cannot be generalized

(-) argument – Tajfel & Turner “According to the Social Identity Theory, hostility can emerge just by creating groups”

Cooperation or working toward a common goal that is greater than the immediate needs or concerns of opposing groups can thus help create a sense of membership to a single, larger group and reduce conflict.


Argument 2: Co-operation in the classroom reduces prejudice. (intergroup contact)

Aronson et al (1978), the Jigsaw Classroom Study

  • Aim: to see if cooperation in a classroom reduces prejudice
  • Method: Participants: American students from different cultures

Materials: an American classroom, where there is a lot of competition

Procedure: 1. Aronson introduced the jigsaw classroom technique: in small groups, each individual contributes one section to the whole solution and the only way of arriving at the complete solution is to combine each individual’s efforts.

2. people were given tasks and had to cooperate, just as the boys did in Sherif’s study when faced with a superordinate goal.

  • Result: Prejudice reduced
  • Evaluation: (-) this might be the result of people doing the particular task
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Argument 3: Redrawing the categories can reduce prejudice (incorporating outgroup in within-group)

  • Turner (1991) noted that if with the superordinate goal the groups redefine themselves as one group, then they all become an in-group

Exp) Gaertner et al (1993)

  • Aim: To prove that with a superordinate goal, groups all become an in-group
  • Result: When two groups became one group to solve a problem, reactions between individuals was more favorable than when they were left as two separate groups


Argument 4: Redrawing the boundaries can reduce prejudice (mixing categories in the groups)

  • Deschamps (1977) claimed that if the groups are a mix of gender and racial groups, and quick categorization using these categories is not possible, prejudice is reduced.

Exp) Hewstone et al (1993) looked at real-life groups with mixed categories.

  • Aim: to see if mixed categories (religion, nationality and language) reduces prejudice
  • Methods: Participants: people with a different religion (Muslim & Hindi), nationality (Bangladeshi & Indian), and languages (Bangali & Hindi)

-Result: the study, carried out in Bangladesh, showed that the categories were not ‘equal’ in that religion had more importance when the individuals we’re evaluating each other. They did not seem so concerned about what language was spoken, or even their nationality, but the other person’s religion did affect their judgments. Language and nationality had some importance, so if the other person was of a different religion and also spoke a different language, liking for them was even lower.

Evaluation: (-) might not be generalized in different countries. (cultural differences)


Argument 5: Equal status contact can reduce prejudice

Trying to change the belief or cognitive component of an attitude is one way to try and combat prejudice. However, there is often a wide gap between attitudes and behavior. Equal-status contact involves encouraging people from different groups to interact on a more equal basis without obvious differences in power or status. A number of studies suggest that this can reduce prejudice.

  • Miller et al (1985): if people focus on individuals in the two groups, rather than on a task, it does seem that prejudice is reduced.
  • Desforges et al (1991): Contact with typical members of the other group has been found to improve relationships between the two groups
  • Aronson (1980): the contact that whites have had with Blacks in America is to see them in low-status jobs such as dishwashers and servants.
  • Amir (1994): the actual contact with other groups should be examined carefully.
  • Deutsch and Collins (1951): early study looking at contact between different groups in two hosing projects. One project involved segregated housing for different racial groups, and the other involved integration. There was less prejudice in the integrated housing project. = so contact does seem to reduce prejudice.
  • Minard (1952): studied miners, where groups of mixed races worked well together underground, but when they came to the surface at the end of a shift, they did not mix. = seemed as if the miners were of equal status as miners, so got on underground, but the norms that were used above ground did not allow this mixed contact to continue
  • Evaluation: (-) within these groups individual friendships may have occurred.


Argument 6: Changing stereotypes can reduce prejudice

Exp) Jane Elliott (1968) “Blue-Eyed, Brown-Eyed Study”

  • Aim: to give her pupils the experience of being discriminated against, so that they could learn about it, and possibly change their stereotypes.
  • Methods: Design: experiment

Participants: a class of 3rd-grade students in Riceville, Iowa.

Procedure: a class teacher called Jane Elliott tried

1. She told her class that the brown-eyed children would be the ruling class for the day, and the blue-eyed children were to be kept in their place. Ingroup and outgroup were formed, and the blue-eyed children began to do badly in their school work quite quickly and became depressed.

2. The next day Elliott told the children that she had lied and that it was the blue-eyed children who were the ruling class, so the brown-eyed were inferior. The ingroup and outgroup were reversed, and the brown-eyed children were quickly discriminated against.

3. She debriefed the children and explained to them the idea that if they had experienced prejudice and discrimination, they would not be so likely to be prejudiced themselves.

Result: Children learned how negative discrimination is. The children on top did better academically, and the children on the bottom did badly. Years later, the students were brought back together. They said that the experience helped a lot in changing their stereotypes and their behavior toward stereotypical people.

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Evaluation: (+) Reduces discrimination, prejudice

(-) High ecological validity, nothing artificial, happened in real life

(-) can be generalized, many replications made

Weber and Crocker (1983)

Proposed three possible models for revising stereotypical beliefs:

  • the bookkeeping model, wherein each piece of disconfirming information modifies the stereotype
  • the conversion mode, wherein the stereotype radically changes in response to a powerful piece of information and
  • the subtyping model, wherein new subtype or subcategory stereotypes are created to support the disconfirming information.

Exp: Aim: to test each of the models

  • subjects were presented with information that disconfirmed their stereotypes about two occupational groups: librarians and corporate lawyers. Subjects in one condition received this information in the bookkeeping style; that is, one fact was disconfirmed after another. In the second condition, subjects were provided with conversion information; that is, a fact that strongly were given information that could facilitate the creation of a subtype of their stereotype.

Findings: the bookkeeping and subtyping information both weakened stereotypes, but the conversion information failed to do so.

Explanation: it appears that the bookkeeping strategy worked to modify beliefs because subjects were presented with many members of the categorized group exhibiting the same disconfirming traits. Subjects resorted to subtyping when the disconfirming traits were concentrated among only a few individuals of the stereotyped group. Why didn’t the conversion model work? According to W & C, a single fact about stereotyped individuals is simply not sufficient to change people’s minds.


Topic 3 Essay: explain & evaluate two theories of collective behavior

The term collective behavior is typically used to explain behavior that is not governed by the everyday rules, expectations or norms that generally shape social behavior. It has been defined by Milgram and Toch (1969) as behavior that originates spontaneously, is relatively disorganized, fairly unpredictable and unplanned in its development, and dependent upon all those present being stimulated by the same force.


Theory 1: Theory of Groupthink proposed by Irving Janis. (1982)

Groupthink is the tendency to think alike and suppress dissent. According to Irving Janis, groupthink occurs when a group’s need for total agreement overwhelms its need to make the wisest decision.

Janis examined the records of historical military decisions and identified typical features of groups that are vulnerable to groupthink: Their members feel that they are part of a tightly connected team; they are isolated from other viewpoints; they feel under pressure from outside forces; and they have a strong, directive leader.

Symptoms of Groupthink:

  • The illusion of invulnerability: the group believes it can do no wrong and is 100 percent correct in its decisions.
  • The belief of inherent morality of the group: members automatically assume the rightness of their target.
  • Collective rationalization: A collective mindset of being rational – highly selective in gathering information.
  • Out-group stereotypes
  • Self-censorship: people only offer equivocal or tempered opinions – not looking for expert opinions or outside opinions. Dissenters decide to keep quiet rather than make trouble, offend their friends, or risk being ridiculed.
  • Illusion of unanimity: by discouraging dissent, leaders and group members create an illusion of consensus. They may even explicitly deny suspected dissenters the chance to say what they think.
  • The direct pressure on dissenters to conform: the leader gives pressure to protect group from negative views or information. Pressure to go along with the rest.
  • Self-appointed mind guards: “mindguards” protect a leader from assault by troublesome ideas.

Historical context:

Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1961

  • President Kennedy wanted to replace Cuban Leader Fidel Castro.
  • Robert Kennedy (President’s bro) served as mindguard: warned opposing members to stay quiet.
  • Preparation was not thorough
  • Invasion was failure

Falls under, Direct pressure on dissenters to conform: minority opinion was ignored, Self-appointed mindguards: Robert Kennedy mindguarded President Kennedy, Self-censorship: President Kennedy didn’t accept any expert opinions about his decision and ignored minority opinions.

Pearl Harbor, December 6th, 1941

  • American military commanders found out Japan’s planned aerial attacks
  • Lost track of Japanese aircraft carriers headed towards Pearl Harbor
  • US Military disregarded the warnings and decided to do nothing
  • Military agreed precaution was not necessary
  • Led to disaster for USA, almost 4000 lives were lost

*Falls under, Illusion of invulnerability: thought their military would be fine without any precautions, Collective rationalization: All of the members agreed that their army would be strong enough to handle the situation, Out-group stereotypes: they thought their army would be stronger than that of Japan

Challenger Incident, January 28th, 1986

  • NASA decided to proceed with a risky launch of the aircraft, ‘Challenger’ with 7 crew members.
  • Engineers warned of potential failure
  • some wanted to ban liftoff if the temperature was below 50�F, for O-rings were not tested
  • The temperature was below freezing during day of lift off
  • Proceeded with liftoff due to heavy promotion and groupthink factor in NASA Headquarters.
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*Falls under, Direct pressure on dissenters to conform: the leaders of the project gave pressure on dissenters and ignored the opinions of the engineers.

Evaluation of theory: (+) Creates orderly society with no conflict

(-) Stifles creativity, can often lead to disasters.. ex- Challenger

(-) Opinions of minority can be neglected


Theory 2: The Bystander Effect proposed by Latane and Darley

Bystander effect: When the presence of others inhibits helping

A diffusion of responsibility is suggested as the explanation of this effect. In organized or anonymous groups, the tendency of members to avoid taking responsibility for actions or decisions because they assume that others will do so.

Motivated by the Kitty Genovese incident:

  • 1964, a woman was returning from her job in Queens, New York
  • Attacked with a knife, stabbed for 35 minutes while 38 people in surrounding apartments watched on
  • No one intervened for the duration of stabbing

Exp. Conducted, “Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility”

  • Latane and Darley (1968)
  • Aim: Explain the phenomenon (bystander effect) seen in the incident in lab settings
  • Hypothesis: Due to diffusion of responsibility, the greater number of individuals present in a situation, the less amount of responsibility each would feel; each would expect others to do something


Design of research: Lab experiment, no informed consent, participants did not know aim of exp.

Participants: 72 NYU students in an introductory psychology course

Procedure: When ppt arrived, he/she was taken to one of a series of small rooms, split into two-, three-, and six-people groups and placed in separate cubicles and communicated over the intercom system (which was pre-taped). Discussed personal and relevant problems and believed that they were talking w/other students when in reality the responses were taped

� The voice of a confederate was taped before the study; mid-discussion, confed. would say that they suffered from severe epileptic seizures that were triggered by pressure. After the participant responded, the confed. on the tape stuttered badly and sounded as if he were having a seizure:

� “I could really-er-use some help so if somebody would-er-give me a little h-help-uh-er-er-er-er…”

� – Latane and Darley measured the percentage of students in each group who left their cubicle and notified the experimenter; also the amount of time it took – ppt. given 4 minutes to respond


2-people group: 85% responded and reported the seizure in less than one minute

6-people group: 31% responded and it took longer than 3 minutes


Ppts’ response to emergency was strongly affected by size of the group

The more bystanders in a situation, the less likely the victim will be helped => bystander effect

Evaluation of experiment:


  • Unethical (ppts were deceived, no informed consent)
  • All ppts were college students
  • Questionable eco. validity – students comm. through intercom system, whereas in real-life you would see the person in need of help
  • Cultural differences


– Illustrated the bystander effect

– Well-planned procedure

– Good control

Evaluation of Theory:

(+) lot of evidence, less abstract

(+) Reliable, replicated and obtained similar results, done extensively and accurately

(+) Lesson to assess the situation and decide well

(-) Population sample, all college students

(+/-) High ecological validity: real-life situation, low ecological validity: artificial, used intercom system.

(-) Situational influences might have applied and affected the result. Ex) having an ally: if there is an ally, one is more likely to act similar, cost-benefit: if one concluded that a certain action of helping ensued more benefit, more likely to help, entrapment (smoke study) and another experimental environment might have affected the result.

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