November 24 - 26, 2004
a. Definitions. (Isajiw, pp. 143-144). This is a “positive or negative orientation towards groups of people without regard to all the facts.” This may involve stereotypes – the images or “cognitive components” (Isajiw, p. 144) that are associated with an ethnic or other group. These are beliefs, values, attitudes, views, thoughts, and judgments about a particular group, associated with incorrect assumptions or information. Fleras and Elliott define it as
A set of biased and generalized prejudgments about out-groups that are derived from inaccurate and incomplete information. It represent a dislike of others based on faulty and inflexible generalizations, involving an irrational and unfounded set of assumptions that influence our ability to treat minority groups in an impartial and inequitable manner. (Fleras and Elliott, 1999, p. 439)
In their glossary, Fleras and Kunz also connect it with being a “social construction created by those in positions of power to justify and entrench the prevailing distribution of resources in society.” (p. 193). In contrast to some psychological approaches that may regard prejudice as emerging from “psychological arousal” in people (Isajiw, p. 156), they regard it as created or constructed, perhaps even deliberately, by dominant groups or those who have power and wish to maintain it. Consider these different approaches to prejudice in the discussion of theories of prejudice (social-psychological as opposed to structural/conflict approaches).
Also note that prejudice can be positive, with a similar unfounded, and overly positive, set of views towards one’s own group. These are the positive views of the in-group or dominant group, who rate themselves and their culture very positively and superior, while at the same time rating other groups negatively and inferior.
Kallen notes two aspects of prejudice:
· Contrast with ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism focusses on one’s own in-group, with images, attitudes, and views about this group. While this may be associated with a view that one’s own group is superior, it need not be, and emerges partly as a way of having positive views about oneself and those with whom an individual is mostly closely associated – this is an aspect of identity. In contrast, prejudice focusses on specific out-groups, and does not appear to have a neutral aspect to it, but is partial and negative toward others. (Kallen, p. 28).
· Emotional or affective underpinnings – strong ideas and feelings. (Kallen. p. 29). Kallen regards prejudice as a powerful force, in that it is not just a set of views or images that can easily be corrected by giving fuller information. Rather, it has an emotional force that may involve deep feelings that are difficult to overcome. While prejudice may be built on misinformation or partial knowledge, this does not mean that merely providing more information will eliminate the prejudice and correct the problem. In fact, Kallen notes that confronting the prejudice in this manner may just lead the prejudiced individual to become more entrenched in his or her views. Thus, confronting the prejudice with the facts may not work and may even be counter productive.
Recall that prejudice is not the same as discrimination or racism but is obviously closely connected to each of these. Discrimination is actions that result in exclusion or denial of opportunities to some and racism is a more systematic or ideological set of actions involving both prejudice and discrimination. Further, an individual or institution may not be prejudiced but can discriminate, and discrimination (especially systemic) can occur without prejudice. While it is important to maintain this conceptual distinction, in practice prejudice, discrimination, and racism are closely linked and usually appear together.
b. Theories of prejudice. Isajiw lists five explanations of prejudice (pp. 154-160), in these notes, explanations are organized into three sections – socialization, structural or conflict, and social-psychological. Each theory likely has some partial explanation of prejudice, so it is important to consider each of these approaches. Each theory also has its own implications for how prejudice might be reduced. If each theory is a partial explanation, then reducing prejudice presumably calls for several different forms of action, each of which might help in reducing prejudice.
i. Socialization and learning. In these approaches, the argument is that prejudice is something that is learned, first as a child and then reinforced by institutions, interactions, and experiences with family, friends, peers, teachers, the media, and conventional attitudes.
· Children in family. First and continued impressions, approaches, attitudes, biases. These may promote prejudice, but could also help counter it.
· Children at educational institutions – importance of messages provided by teachers, textbooks, curriculum, teaching English and other languages. Multicultural education.
· Peer groups – often associated with strong boundaries and identity formation. Can lend itself to an us vs. them mentality. In contemporary Canada, this appears to be countered by other forces. Influence of more accepting attitudes and approaches. Encounters with other youths at school and university. Attitudes of young appear to be less identified with stereotypes and prejudice than do attitudes of older adults. Strong commitment of young to a particular view – but this can be strong commitment against prejudice and racism, rather than a strong commitment to it (Isajiw, p. 155).
· Media images and increased influence on young people. Media also provide a wide range of images, and media can do much to reduce stereotypes as well.
The power of stereotypes and prejudices can be seen by the way that immigrants often quickly pick up the images and views of the majority in society. Integration into the society means adopting some of the majority and dominant views. Some of these are ways of interacting with others, but some are more attitudinal. In the latter case, many immigrants quickly learn the dominant views – to the extent these are prejudiced, the newcomers also become prejudiced. In the interviews with newcomers to Regina, this was apparent with respect to views of aboriginal people. We had anticipated that newcomers might identify with some of the problems and treatment associated with aboriginal people, but found that several mimicked some of the conventional views about aboriginal people – negative views toward aboriginal people with respect to use of alcohol, attitudes toward jobs, family structures, and cleanliness.
See CRIC survey – attitudes of immigrants and visible minorities do not always differ than much from attitudes of others. See New Canada and New Canada Revisited studies, available at web site: http://www.cric.ca/en_re/analys/index.html
ii. Structural/conflict approaches. Isajiw discusses three approaches to the study of prejudice that are less concerned with how individuals learn to be prejudiced. They examine the underlying causes of conflict or difference among groups that can lead to poor intergroup relations and negative views of others. These are what he terms the structural, competition, and historical legacy approaches. These theories do not explain how prejudice becomes part of individual opinions, but provide an explanation of the conditions that can lead to antagonism between groups. In each of these approaches, there is some aspect of ethnic clustering in particular parts of society – jobs, businesses, schools, sports, etc. That is, members of each ethnic group are not randomly distributed across all activities and situations, but each ethnic group tends to be clustered in some part of the social structure.
· Structural. The structural approach to prejudice refers to the division of society into elites and non-elites, or social classes, where members of an elite or dominant social class exercise power over members of non-elites or subordinate social classes. To the extent these power differences are associated with ethnicity, as they often are, this can create poor ethnic relations and conflict among groups, and negative views of others. The dominant group often views itself as superior, since it is at the top of the structure, and may consider that it worked to get there. Members of this group, if not prejudiced, may think of their way of doing things as normal, and expect others to conform, that is, they can be ethnocentric.
Those in other groups may resent members of the dominant elite and have prejudiced views of individual members of the dominant group, forgetting there is diversity within each group. This can also create feelings of inferiority, self-doubt, and inability to succeed among those in the subordinate group. Isajiw describes other variants of such a structural approach. In Canada, John Porter described the elite well in The Vertical Mosaic and, while British dominance has been reduced in many Canadian institutions, there is still a legacy of such dominance, as well as an over-representation of those of British background at the top of many institutions.
· Competition and conflict. Ethnic groups are often in conflict in a society, especially in North America, where there are many immigrant groups and a limited set of economic opportunities. Ethnic groups have often being deliberately divided by employers in an effort to reduce wage costs or prevent workers from uniting to improve working conditions. Good and affordable housing in cities is often scarce, so there may be competition over who occupies particular neighbourhoods. Competition emerges in many spheres – economic, political, cultural, educational, sports, and each of these can create feelings of antipathy toward other groups.
· Historical legacy. Each of the above two features can last a long time, creating historical experiences and memories for members of each ethnic group. While actual social and economic relationships may change, the memory of earlier relations can be powerful. Many of the ethnic conflicts are related to memories of earlier atrocities or unjust treatment of one group by another – aboriginal people may still resent Columbus and Europeans coming to America, the French resent the Conquest, the Catholic and Protestant dispute in Ireland goes back several centuries, and so on. (See, for example, on the Northern Ireland situation http://www.the-twelfth.org.uk/twelfth%202001.pdf). These are passed on from parents and ethnic community to children, who pass such views on to their children. Nisei Japanese, second generation Japanese-Canadians, born in Canada, were regarded as just as much of a threat to Canada during the Second World War as were their parents. Such views had little foundation for either first or second generation Japanese-Canadians. Nisei had no particular attachment to Japan, did not wish to learn Japanese, often disagreed with their parents approach to life in Canada, and wished to be treated as Canadian as anyone else.
iii. Social/psychological. These involve psychological approaches where it is argued that prejudice can develop as a result of social interaction and social development. In developing an identity, an individual has to distinguish him or her from others, but at the same time incorporate the norms and views of society in their minds. Examples include sociologists such as Mead, who developed arguments concerning the relation between mind, self, and society, or Durkheim who argued that social facts (social norms and forms of behaviour) impose themselves on individuals. In addition, there is a tendency and need to categorize in order to make sense of the world around us. These processes could lead to dividing the world into different groups, and since we are not able to develop a thorough knowledge of each group, these processes can lead to stereotypes and prejudice. Similarly, Simmel develops a model of a urban people, where the mind develops in a way to deal with the multiplicity of interactions in urban settings. These approaches are sociological, in that they identify social interaction as an aspect of development of mind and self, but they are also psychological, in that they consider how the mind and self respond and develop. But they are not purely psychological – there is always social interaction with others that are associated with such developments.
Isajiw identifies several ways such psychological arousal might develop in response to specific stimuli or social processes.
· Scapegoating. Blaming others for problems and inability to recognize own role in creating situations. The Green Paper on Immigration had many aspects of this, blaming immigrants for overcrowded cities, pollution, and environmental problems (see notes for October 18-20). In fact, to the extent that such problems exist, it is the Canadian social and economic structure, and many Canadians, who create these problems.
· Frustration-aggression. This is frustration over being thwarted in an individual’s achieving goals. This can turn into antagonism or aggression against other individuals and groups. Some of this has undoubtedly occurred among males and members of formerly dominant groups as women or members of different ethnic groups have improved their opportunities. Employment equity, affirmative action, feminism, and multiculturalism all become subject to attack, and individual members of formerly disadvantaged groups may be regarded negatively.
· Threats to group identity. This is similar to frustration-aggression, emerging as a result of a group becoming displaced from a former niche or more powerful position. To the extent that the culture and identity of the ethnic group is tied to this position, members of other ethnic groups may be regarded negatively. Promotion of members of minority groups or of women in institutions have sometimes threatened the identity of males from majority groups.
· Authoritarian personality. One sociological approach to prejudice comes from critical theory, what is sometimes referred to as the Frankfurt school – a German, Marxist approach in the conflict tradition of Marx and Weber. Following the rise of the Nazi party in Europe, this group of scholars – Adorno, Fromm, Marcuse, and Horkheimer – went to the United States. There they pursued studies of society, focussing on studies of prejudice in the 1940s. Given their background in Germany, they were concerned about the emergence of fascism in other parts of the world. Their studies examined “psychological elements which predispose individuals toward prejudice and racial hatred.” (Kellner, p. 114). The basic idea of the authoritarian personality is that “there is a personality type prone to prejudicial thought. ” There are also personality types that are more prone to be tolerant. (Marger, p. 90).
Two social-psychological approaches are examined in more detail in the following note – the authoritarian personality and the automatic stereotype models of Brian Lowery.
Authoritarian personality notes from Sociology 319, March 9, 2000
One of the concerns of the Frankfurt school was to develop an idea of how authority emerges in modern society, given that traditional forms of authority have been eclipsed. Fromm connected the acceptance of authority with the family and with the larger society. The individual learns to accept the authority of the father in patriarchal society and develops an inner censor which internalizes commands and prohibitions. This plus fear of punishment are constantly reinforced by other representatives of authority, so that people learn to submit to these authorities and internalize this. Fromm looked on people as developing weak egos as a result and argued that the ego has to be strengthened and that there should be “rebellion against irrational authority and development of strong egos which do not derive pleasure from either subordination or domination, and which are independent of dominant authority, yet able to recognize rational authority” (Kellner, 1989, p. 43).
The idea of authority was later taken up by Theodor Adorno in The Authoritarian Personality (published in 1950). This was a quantitative study conducted in the United States in the late 1940s. The major concern of the study was to determine “the potentially fascistic individual, one whose structure is such as to render him particularly susceptible to anti-democratic propaganda” (Kellner, 1989, p. 115). Kellner argues that the questions associated with this study and the findings can be useful in analyzing the new right conservatism that has emerged in North America in recent years.
In this study, Adorno argued that there was a particular character type that could be considered authoritarian – individuals who “had a deep psychological need for an ‘imaginary foe’ on which to project all forms of evil and aggression, a foe which would serve as a scapegoat for explaining the world’s (and individual’s) major problems, fears and obsessions” (Kellner, 1989, p. 116). Some of the characteristics of the authoritarian personality are adherence to conventional values, authoritarian (uncritical) submission to idealized authorities, and aggression toward those who violate conventional values, superstitions and stereotypes, cynicism, and exaggerated concern with sexual ‘goings-on.’ For Adorno
Ignorance about the complex conditons of modern societies leads to a general uncertainty and anxiety, while creating favorable conditions for the projection of paranoid fears onto imaginary enemies. It also leads to … ‘ticket thinking’ and ‘personalization in politics’, whereby the confused, anxious authoritarian personality buys into an entire political agenda and projects hostile and aggressive tendencies on personalized enemies, while idealizing authoritarian leaders. (Kellner, 1989, p. 117).
One of the arguments presented by Adorno was that the
most prejudiced and antidemocratic individuals had distinctive personalities and came, on the whole, from homes where relationships between parent and child were characterized by dominance and submission and where family members were intolerant of a lack of conformity. In other words, the factors that precipitate prejudice were clearly seen as psychological. (Wallace and Wolf, pp. 103-104).
While Adorno primarily addressed this authoritarian personality type, some of these characteristics may emerge in other personalities. While fascism has not emerged in North America, there is still much racial and ethnic prejudice, and some sociologists have used the concept of the authoritarian personality to explain this continued prejudice. Adorno and his colleagues did not develop remedies for the authoritarian personality, rather they proposed dramatic social change, arguing that current social structures are bound to produce such authoritarian personalities. They argued that prejudice
must largely be considered the outcome of our civilization (including) such tendencies in our culture as division of labor, the increased importance of monopolies and institutions, and the dominance of the ideas of exchange and of success and competition. (Adorno, as quoted in Wallace and Wolf, p. 104).
Kellner argues that Adorno’s findings are still useful and can be used to describe and analyze contemporary attitudes and movements of the conservative right in the United States – their characteristics today are essentially the same as in the late 1940s. Some sociologists continue to use Adorno’s authoritarian personality as one of the main explanations of prejudice.
Characteristics of the Authoritarian Personality (from Horkheimer and Adorno)
1. Conventionalism. Rigid adherence to conventional, middle class attitudes.
2. Authoritarian Submission. Submissive, uncritical attitude toward idealized moral authorities of the ingroup.
3. Authoritarian Aggression. Tendency to be on the lookout for, and to condemn, reject, and punish people who violate conventional values.
4. Anti-intraception. Opposition to the subjective, the imaginative, the tenderminded.
5. Superstitions and Stereotyty. The belief in mystical determinants of the individual’s fate; the disposition to think in rigid categories.
6. Power and ‘Toughness’. Preoccupation with the dominance-submission, strong-weak, leader-follower dimension; identification with power figures; overemphasis upon the conventionalized attributes of the ego; exaggerated assertion of strength and toughness.
7. Destruction and Cynicism. Generalized hostility, vilification of the human.
8. Projectivity. The disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things go on in the world; the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses.
9. Sex. Exaggerated concern with sexual ‘goings-on.’
From Douglas Kellner. 1989. Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity. Oxford: Polity Press, p. 116.
Automatic racial stereotypes – studies of Brian Lowery
One focus of social psychology research, especially in the United States, has been to examine racial stereotypes and prejudices, the extent and form of these among different types of individuals and in different settings, and investigate how these prejudices might be changed or reduced. One of the key researchers in this area is Brian Lowery, a professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California (near San Fransisco). He and his colleagues conduct controlled experiments presenting subjects with different tests and tasks in a controlled environment. These tasks ask subjects to associate descriptions to names or types of people, rate words, rate types of people, and make judgments. Dr. Lowery presented several of his papers at the Social Justice Conference, sponsored by the International Society for Justice Research, and held at the University of Regina this last summer.
Sandra Graham and Brian S. Lowery, “Priming Unconscious Racial Stereotypes About Adolescent Offenders,” Stanford Graduate School of Business Research Papers Series, Research Paper No. 1857. Available at web site: http://gobi.stanford.edu/ResearchPapers/Library/RP1857.pdf
In this article, Graham and Lowery begin by noting three issues:
· Stereotypes about African American are mostly negative, even though they have become less negative over the last fifty years. But respondents generally associate Blacks, especially Black males with hostility, aggressiveness, violence, and danger, in contrast to more neutral or positive images about other groups. (pp. 4-5).
· Stereotypes operate mostly at an unconscious level and “can be activated and used outside of conscious awareness.” This is especially the case for those in the official system, such as police officers, whose “decisions often must be made quickly, under conditions of cognitive and emotional overload (e.g., perceived threat), where much ambiguity exists, and with few informational cues other than the appearance or demeanor of the accused. These are the very conditions that are known to activate unconscious beliefs.” (p. 6).
· “Unconscious racial stereotypes, once activated, then influence conscious processes.” (p. 7). These could be treatment of a client or offender, deciding on guilt or innocence of an individual appearing before the court, sentencing, etc.
The following is a description of one of his research projects.
See “Racial stereotypes can be unconscious but reversible.” Study of Stanford University professor Brian Lowery. Stanford University research report. From
In another article, Lowery et al. argue that attitudes, even deep-seated ones can be changed by “positive interpersonal contact.” At the same time, they question whether such attitude change
represents the best route to a more egalitarian society. … If attitudes readily change from situation to situation, to what extent can they serve as the basis for long-term stable change? We maintain that efforts to create stable societal change should focus not on changing attitudes, but rather on the situations that create these attitudes. (Lowery et al., 2001, p. 852).
One result was that “participants exhibited reduced automatic racial prejudice simply by being asked to be an unprejudiced as possible.” (Lowery et al., 2001, p. 852). Another finding was that “European Americans exhibited less automatic prejudice in the presence of a Black experimenter than a White experimenter.” (Lowery et al., 2001, p. 848). They found that “automatic racial attitudes are subject to both tacit and explicit social influence.” (Lower et al., 2001, p. 852). If there results are correct and can be generalized, which they argue is possible, then creating situations of what they term “shared reality” can help “social tuning” to reduce prejudice in these situations.
One finding from related research was that “automatic stereotypes about African Americans were much harder to activate when subliminally primed Black faces were embedded in pictures of churches rather than street corners.” (p. 27). Unfortunately, the situations where African Americans are likely to meet with police is not in churches but at street corners, so the situation cannot be controlled. That is, the encounter are more commonly in social situations that “are most likely to activate negative association.” (p. 27). However, one more encouraging feature is that “when perceivers are motivated to develop a relationship with a member of a stereotyped group … or to form a good impression of that person … then automatic stereotype activism is inhibited.” (p. 27). These are what Lowery and others refer to as “social tuning.” Lowery and Graham argue that “Inhibiting racial stereotypes may be less a function of unlearning negative associations, which requires extensive training, practice, and vigilance, than of exercising good relationship-building skills, as in establishing rapport and trust among vulnerable youth.” (p. 28)
c. Effects of prejudice. Isajiw, pp. 160-162.
d. Eliminating or reducing prejudice. Isajiw, pp. 162-167. Some of the ways of eliminating prejudice are apparent from the different theories of how prejudice emerges. Isajiw discusses six approaches. Given that there is no single, clear explanation of the cause of prejudice, the solution to prejudice is likely to be multifaceted. There may be several different causes of prejudice, different individuals may develop prejudice in different ways, and different situations may create different responses in individuals. As a result, all the possible solutions should be explored to see which is most effective in any given situation.
· Education. If prejudicial attitudes develop in the family and schools, one solution is to change the images. This has led to rewriting of textbooks, multicultural programs, and being more accommodating to the cultural needs of children of different cultures. For adults, there can be programs for teachers, officials, police, businesspeople, social workers, etc. that attempt to develop a non-prejudicial approach to diversity. Conferences, workshops, and educational material can be useful. At the University of Regina, the harassment and discrimination prevention officer presents seminars and other programs to staff and students.
· Contact. One idea behind having diverse people and groups come into contact is to bring people of different backgrounds together in an attempt to reduce social distance and demonstrate that stereotypes are incorrect. While such approaches may be fruitful in some circumstances, they are less so in others. If the contact is staged, temporary, or poorly structured, then it could create more problems than it solves. Isajiw notes that “the contact approach is most successful in reducing ethnic and racial prejudice when persons of diverse backgrounds join in a common task in which each person is considered to be equally important and necessary in his or her contribution to the common goal.” (p. 164). Lowery’s work also demonstrates the importance of situations – it may be that contact itself is not the key so much as the structure of the situation, the context of the situation, the rules governing interaction in the situation, and images presented in the situation.
· Images. Again, Lowery’s research demonstrates the importance of having positive images associated with the situation. In the case of the media, Isajiw notes how it is important to have coverage of both positive and negative aspects and to have “discussion of issues that are of concern to the respective minority community.” (p. 166). Many of the old, stereotypical images have been removed from the media but, as detailed by Fleras and Kunz, there are still many ways that negative impressions and stereotypes come from contemporary media.
· Discrimination elimination. Since discrimination and prejudice can be independent phenomena, one approach to tackling prejudice is to attempt to eliminate discrimination. If this can be accomplished, the result is greater contact among individuals and groups with diverse backgrounds. This means greater contact among people in situations where individuals may be concerned with working toward a common goal or at least be engaged in common tasks where people have to work together. It may be that this can act to reduce prejudice. Examples include workplaces and educational institutions. Anti-discrimination provisions include the Bill of Rights, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Human Rights Commissions at the federal and provincial level, and codes within each institution. At the University of Regina, there are several provisions related to equity and non-discrimination – the University Policy and office dealing with Harassment and Discrimination, and employment equity provisions. These have acted to make the workforce of the University more diverse and, hopefully, to reduce discrimination. Whether this has led to a reduction in prejudice is difficult to determine though. There is also a backlash against such provisions – some argue this produces reverse discrimination. The undergraduate survey we conducted gives some indication of this. Over one-half of males agreed that equity provisions have hurt white males.
· Social policy. Employment equity, affirmative action, immigration and settlement policy, greater provision of public services, multiculturalism.
· Anti-racism. Programs or groups aimed specifically at making people more conscious of prejudice and racism and being required to address the issues. These activities can result in more people becoming aware of the problems and hopefully these help reduce prejudice and racism. While these are important activities, to the extent that they are general, detached from ordinary situations, and do not deal with structural changes in the economic and political arena, it is not clear how much they accomplish. Some more specific and positive policies and programs would seem to be necessary to complement these – presumably this is one of the aims of multiculturalism, employment equity, and similar programs. Isajiw also notes how these can be targeted at hate groups (p. 167).
Next day – Fleras and Kunz, chapter 2. Racism.
Fleras, Augie and Jean Leonard Elliott. 1999. Unequal Relations: An Introduction to Race, Ethnic and Aboriginal Dynamics in Canada, third edition. Scarborough, Ontario, Rentice Hall Allyn Bacon Canada.
Helly, Denise. 2004. “Are Muslims Discriminated Against in Canada Since September 2001?” Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2004. FC104 C36.
Kellen, Evelyn. 1982. Ethnicity and Human Rights in Canada, Toronto, Gage Publishing Limited.
Kellner, Douglas. 1989. Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press.
Lowery, Brian S., Curtis D. Hardin, and Stacey Sinclair. 2001. “Social Influence Effects on Automatic Racial Prejudice,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 5, pp.842-855. Available online on campus.
Marger, Martin N., Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives, Stamford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Thomson Learning.
Porter, John. 1965. The Vertical Mosaic, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.
Wallace, Ruth A. and Alison Wolf. 1999. Contemporary Sociological Theory: Expanding the Classical Tradition, fifth edition, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Prentice Hall.
Last edited November 30, 2004