Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 45: Antisocial Relations
What is prejudice? What are its social and emotional roots?
Prejudice means “prejudgment.” It is an unjustifiable and usually negative attitude toward a group – often a
different cultural, ethnic, or gender group. Like all attitudes prejudice is a three-part mixture of:
• Beliefs (or stereotypes)
To believe that obese people are gluttonous, to feel dislike for an obese person, and to be hesitant to hire or date an
obese person is to be prejudiced. Prejudice is a negative attitude. Discrimination is a negative behaviour.
How Prejudiced Are People?
1/3 of Americans who in 1937 told Gallup pollsters that they would vote for a qualified woman whom their party
nominated for president soared to 89% in 2007. Interracial dating 9 in 10 support it.
Yet as overt prejudice wanes, subtle prejudices lingers. Recent experiments illustrate that prejudice can be not only
subtle but also automatic and unconscious. Gender, race, same-sex relations.
Our mind processes thoughts, memories, and attitudes on two different tracks. Explicit – on the radar screen of our
awareness – and implicit – below the radar, leaving us unaware of how our attitudes are influencing our behaviour.
Implicit Racial Associations: not in our awareness – word associations with blacks often had a negative
backing vs. word associations with whites.
Unconscious Patronization: giving a higher mark to a black fellow student; low expectations, inflated praise
and insufficient criticism
Race-Influenced Perceptions: shooting an unarmed man
Reflexive Bodily Responses: we may give off telltale signals as our body responds selectively to another’s
race. Neuroscientists can detect these signals.
Social Roots of Prejudice
Social Inequalities: When some people have money, power, and prestige and others do not, the ‘’haves’
usually develop attitudes that justify things as they are. The just-world phenomenon reflects an idea we
commonly teach our children – that good is rewarded and evil is punished. Victims of discrimination may react with
either self-blame or anger, which can feed prejudice through the classic blame-the-victim dynamic.
Us and Them: Ingroup and Outgroup: We have inherited the need to belong, to live and love in groups;
safety in solidarity. Thus we cheer for our groups, kill for them, die for them. Through our social identities we
associate ourselves with certain groups and contrast ourselves with others. Those who are similar to us – we tend
to like. We are the ingroup. People outside our circle are the outgroup. Ingroup bias – favouring our own group.
We have ingroup empathy. Ingroup bias explains the cognitive power of partisanship.
Why do sports fans tend to feel a sense of satisfaction when their archival team loses?
Sports fans may feel a part of an ingroup that sets itself apart from an outgroup (fans of the archival team). Ingroup
bias tends to develop, leading to prejudice and the view that the outgroup deserves misfortune. So, the archival
team’s loss may seem justified.
Emotional Roots of Prejudice
Scapegoat theory notes that when things go wrong, finding someone to blame can provide a target for anger. Fear
and anger create aggression, and aggression against citizens of different ethnicity or race creates racism and in
turn, new forms of terrorism. Evidence for the scapegoat theory of prejudice comes from high prejudice among economically frustrated people, and from experiments in which a temporary frustration intensifies prejudice. To
boost our own sense of status, it helps to have others to denigrate. Negative emotions nourish prejudice. When
facing death, fearing threats, or experiencing frustration, people cling more tightly to their ingroup and their friends.
Cognitive Roots of Prejudice
What are the cognitive roots of prejudice?
Stereo-typed beliefs are a by-product of how we cognitively simplify the world.
Forming Categories: Humans categorize people by race, with mixed-race people often assigned to their
minority identity. Stereotyping. We recognize how greatly we differ from other individuals in our groups. But we
overestimate the homogeneity of other groups. Other-race effect (or cross-race effect or own-race bias)
emerges during infancy – age 3-9months, greater recognition for own-race faces.
Remembering Vivid Cases: often judge frequency of event by instances that readily come to mind. Vivid
(violent) cases are more readily available to our memory and feed our stereotypes.
Believing the World is Just: People often justify their prejudices by blaming others. Hindsight bias. We are
inclined to see the way things are as they way they ought to be. This natural conservatism makes it difficult to
legislate major social changes, such as health care of climate-change policies. System justification.
When prejudiced judgment causes us to find an undeserving person to blame for a problem, that person is called a
How does psychology’s definition of aggression differ from everyday usage? What biological factors make us more
prone to hurt one another?
In Psychology, aggression is any physical or verbal behaviour intended to hurt or destroy, whether done out of
hostility or as a calculated means to an end.
The Biology of Aggression – aggression varies too widely from culture to culture, era to era, and person to person to
be considered an unlearned instinct. But biology does influence aggression. We can look for biological influence at
three levels – genetic, neural, and biochemical.
Genetic Influences: Researchers continue to search for genetic markers in those who commit the most
violence. One is already well-known and is carried by half of the human race: the Y chromosome.
Neural Influences: complex behaviour and occurs in particular contexts. We have neural systems that, given
provocation, will either inhibit or facilitate aggressive behaviour. Implant electrode in amygdala of mild-mannered
woman, she was unable to feel the stimulation but at flick of switch, got aggressive. Violent criminals reveal
diminished activity in frontal lobes which play an important role in controlling impulses.
Biochemical Influences: Testosterone circulates in the bloodstream and influences the neural systems that
control aggression. Violent criminals tend to be muscular young males with higher-than-average testosterone levels,
lower-than-average intelligence scores, and low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Men tend to have wide
faces. High testosterone correlates with irritability, assertiveness, impulsiveness, and low tolerance for frustration.
Alcohol unleashes aggressive responses to frustration. People who have been drinking commit 4 in 10 violent
crimes and 3 in 4 acts of spousal abuse.
Psychological and Social-Cultural Factors in Aggression
What psychological and social-cultural factors may trigger aggressive behaviour?
Aversive Events: Suffering sometimes builds character. Those who are miserable make others miserable.
Frustration-aggression principle: Frustration create anger, which can spark aggression. Pitchers most likely to hit
• They had been frustrated by the previous batter hitting a home run
• The current batter had hit a home run the last time at bat
• A teammate had been hit by a pitch in the previous half-inning.
Other aversive stimuli – hot temperatures, physical pain, personal insults, foul odours, cigarette smoke, crowding,
etc. can also evoke hostility.
Reinforcement and Modeling: Learning can alter natural reactions. We learn when our behaviour is
reinforced, and we learn by watching others. To foster a kinder, gentler world we had best model and reward
sensitivity and cooperation from an early age, perhaps by training parents to discipline without modeling violence…
avoiding screaming and hitting. One aggression-replacement program taught both generations new ways to control