Zimbardo et al (1995) have defined prejudice as a learned attitude toward a target object, involving negative affect dislike or fear and negative beliefs stereotypes that justify the attitudes.
Theories if the origins of prejudice fall into the major categories (i) prejudice stemming from personality variables, and (ii) those which emphasize the interaction between personal and social variables.
In 1950, Adorno, Frankel Brunswick, Levinson and Sanford proposed the concept of the authoritarian personality, a type of person who is prejudiced by virtue of specific personality traits which influence him/her to be hostile towards ethnic, racial and other minority or out groups.
They began by studying anti Semitism in Nazi Germany in the 1940 s by using a number of scales were developed in the course of their research designed to measure (i) anti Semitism; (ii) ethnocentrism and (iii) political economic conservatism. Out of these emerged the F scale (fascism scale), which measures anti democratic tendencies indirectly by not mentoring specific minority groups or ideological beliefs; but reveals anti Semitism is part of a general factor rather than an isolated prejudice so that the authoritarian personality is prejudiced in a very generalized way.
Typically, the authoritarian personality is hostile to people of inferior status, servile to those of lighter status, disapproving and uncertainty, unwilling to introspect feelings and an upholder of conventional values and ways of life. This belief is convention and intolerance of ambiguity combine to make minorities them and the authoritarian s membership group us, they are by definition bad and we are by definition good.
Authoritarians have often experienced a harsh, punitive, disciplinarian upbringing, with little affection and they often reveal considerable latent hostility towards their parents. Such feelings (unconsciously) may be displaced onto minority groups and or groups projected onto these groups.
As far as the relationship between the authoritarian personality and upbringing is concerned, the F scale of college students and their parents, and Levinson and Huffman (1955) reported that authoritarian parents are more likely to stress discipline, conventionalism and submission in their child rearing methods compared with non-authoritarian parents.
In the laboratory, authoritarian personalities have been shown to be intolerant of ambiguity, and outside negative bias towards pornography, are highly susceptible to social influence, especially in relation to people of higher status and are more likely to give a verdict of guilty and recommend longer sentences when serving on juries. They are also more likely to hold sexiest attitudes, vote conservative and obey the orders of an authority figure to give electric shocks to an innocent stranger.
Adorno et al s theory has a number of problems; Brown (1988) discusses tow of them. First, the theory cannot explain the spread uniformity of prejudice in certain societies or sub groups within societies. If prejudice is to be explained in terms of individual s differences, how can it then be manifested in a whole population or at least a vast majority of that population In pre war Nazi Germany fro example consistent racist attitudes and behaviour were shown by hundreds of thousands of people who must have differed on most other psychological characteristics.
Secondly, how can the theory account for the sudden rise and falls of prejudice in particular societies at specific historical periods. Again taking the example of anti Semitism in Nazi Germany, this arose during a decade or so, which is:
..much too short a time for a whole generation of German families to have adopted new forms of child rearing practices giving rise to authoritarian and prejudiced children (Brown 1988)
Even more dramatic was the anti Japanese prejudice among Americans following the attack on Peal Harbour. Such examples:
strongly suggest that the attitudes held by members of different groups towards each other have more to do with the objective relations between the groups relations of political conflict or alliance, economic inter dependence and so on than with the familiar relation in which they grew up (Brown 1988).
Another criticism made from the authoritarian personality is that it assumed that authoritarianism is a characteristic of the political right and so implied that there is no equivalent authoritarianism on the left.
The best know attempt to redress the balance is Rokeach (1960), who has developed a dogmatism scale; ideological dogmatism refers to a relatively rigid outlook on life and intolerance of those with opposing beliefs. High scores o the dogmatism scale reveal: (i) closed ness of mind, (ii) lack of flexibility and (iii) authoritarianism, regardless of particular social and political ideology.
So an individual with left wing or progressive beliefs can espouse them in just as rigid and dogmatic a way as someone with right wing or reactionary views they can be equally extreme (and closed) regardless of their particular content.
The dogmatic individual tends to accentuate differences between us and them, displays self – aggrandizement, a paranoid outlook on life and is uncompromising in his/her beliefs and intolerant of others. These characteristics serve defences against the dogmatic person s self inadequacy.
In fact, Rokeach found it difficult to find closed mindedness in people with left wing views but, as Brown (1985) points out, such views were generally much more unacceptable in the USA in the 1950 s that they are even today and required the people who held them to show open mindedness and cognitive flexibility.
Similarly, Eysenck (1954) distinguishes between (i) Radicalism conservation, corresponding to left/right wing political beliefs and (ii) Tough mindedness Tender mindedness, corresponding to authoritarianism and dogmatism. A tough-minded person will be attracted to extreme political ideologies, be it Fascism or Communism; the authoritarian person is tough minded and conservative, while the humanitarian is tender minded and radical.
While the R factor represents social attitudes acquired during one s lifetime by social and political experience, the T factor is a projection on the field of social attitudes of certain fundamental personality traits; namely tough-minded ness and extroversion, and tender minded ness and introversion.
Social psychological theories recognized by Adorno et al say that as important as personality dynamics are, it is society which provides the content of attitudes and prejudice and it is society which defines who are the out groups. Discrimination does not necessarily imply prejudice or authoritarianism. Brown (1985) suggested cultural or societal norms may be much more important than personality in accountancy for ethnocentrism, out group rejection, prejudice and discrimination.
Although research on the authoritarian personality has been valuable individual bigotry can explain only a small proportion of racial discrimination. Even though overt discrimination has been traditionally greater in the south of the USA, white southerners have not scored higher than whites from the north on measures of authoritarianism (Pettigrew 1959). So clearly conformity to social norms can prove more powerful as a determinant of behaviour than personality factors.
Minard (1952) found that black and white coal miners in west Virginia followed a pattern of almost complete integration below ground but almost complete segregation above, this only makes sense when viewed in terms of conformity to the norms which operated in those different situations.
Pettigrew (1971) also found that southern Americans are not more anti Semitic than those from the north. Women are more anti black than men in the south, but not in the north; those affiliated to a political party are more anti black in the south than independents, but no such differences exist in the north. These differences cannot be explained in terms of personality differences.
Contrary to the claims of the authoritarian personality, the traditional anti black attitudes in the southern USA have not been combined with anti Semitism or prejudice against other minority, i.e. prejudice is not the generalized attitude which Adorno et al it is.
If prejudice is not a generalized attitude to all out groups, it suggests that we learn to become prejudiced against particular groups in the same way that we learn other kinds of attitudes, e.g.: through observational learning involving parents, peers, the media and so on.
Inter group conflict, Campbell (19470 found that a strong relationship between dissatisfaction with their financial position and the general political state of the country, on the one hand, and anti Semitism on the other, on the part of 300 non Jewish Americans; of those whose were generally satisfied only 22% showed any form of prejudice, while 62% of the disatisfied were prejudiced against Jews. Also, as prosperity declined between 1880 and 1930 in the USA, the number of lynching of blacks in the south increased; during the more prosperous years the lynching decreased.
Sheriff (1966) argues that inter group conflict arises as a result of a conflict of interests: when two groups want to achieve the same goal but cannot both have it, hostility is produced between them. He claims that conflict of interest is a sufficient condition for the occurrence of hostility or conflict he bases this claim on one of the most famous field experiments in social psychology.
The setting was Robber s cave state park in Oklahoma, where 22 white middle class, Protestant, well adjusted boys, spent two weeks at a summer camp they were randomly assigned to two groups of 11 each occupying a separate cabin, out of sight of each other. None of the boys knew any of the others prior to their arrival at the camp.
During the first stage of the experiment, each group co-operated on a number of occasions/activities and soon a distinct set of norms emerged which defined the groups identity:(i) Rattler s (ii) Eagles. Towards the end of the first week, they were allowed to become aware of the other s existence and an us and them language quickly developed.
The second stage with the announcement that there was to be a ground tournament between the two groups, comprising 10 sporting events plus points awarded for the state their cabins and so on; a splendid trophy, medals and for bladed knives for each of the group members would be awarded to the winning group.
Before the tournament began, the Rattler s flag was burned and the camp counsellors (the experimenters) had to break up the fight between the two groups. With some help from the counsellors the Eagles won and later the in group Rattlers stereotyped all Rattlers as brave, tough and friendly and almost all the Eagles as sneaky, stinkers and smart alecks: the reverse was true for the Eagles.
Clearly the competition the threatened an unfair distribution of rewards and the losing group inevitably saw the winners as undeserving. Sheriff et al s results have been confirmed with adults from industrial organisations meeting for two-week periods.
According to Tajfel et al (1971) can hostility arise in the absence of conflicting interests The answer is yes. They believed that the more perception of the existence of another group could itself produce discrimination: when are randomly divided into two groups, knowledge of the other group s existence is a sufficient condition for the development of pro in group and anti out group attitudes: known as minimal grouping.
Tajfel et al argue that before any discrimination can occur, people must be categorized as members of an in group or an out- group, but more significantly, the very act of categorization by itself produces conflict and discrimination.
Tajfel and Turner (1979) and Tajfel (1981) offer an explanation in the form of social identity theory (SIT). According to SIT: (i) individuals strive to achieve or maintain a positive self image; and (ii) the self image has two components, personal identity and social identity. Each of us has several social identities, corresponding to the number of different groups with which we identify and in relation to each one the more positive the image of the group, the more positive will be our own social identity and hence our self image.
By emphasizing the desirability of the in group(s) and the undesirability of the out group(s) and focusing on those distinctions which enable one s own group to come on top, we help to create for ourselves a satisfactory social identity and this can be seen as lying at the heat of prejudice. Part of SIT s attraction is its ability to make sense of a wide range of phenomena in naturalistic contexts, including wage differentials, etholinguistic groups and occupational groups.
Some individuals may be more prone to prejudice because they have an intense need for acceptance by others. For such individuals, personal and social identity may be much more interlinked than those with lesser need for social acceptance. The need for a sense of security and superiority can be met by belonging to a favoured in-group and showing hostility towards out groups. This is seen distinctly in majority minority group relations where for example, almost any white may feel superior to any black, no matter how well educated or economically well off.
Allport (1954) noted that many cases of prejudice are part of the conformity found in polite social chatter. Affiliation needs can readily produce anti social effects an otherwise upstanding citizen may feel it necessary to show the strength of his/her affiliation by putting down members of out groups. This pattern may be especially intense in the case of converts to a new group.
Scape goating, this theory of prejudice as an outlet for frustration, combines two ideas (i) Freud s concept of displacement, whereby substitute objects or targets for aggression are found when it is impossible to express the hostility towards it s real target and (ii) the frustration aggression hypothesis, which maintains that frustration always gives to aggression and aggression is always caused by frustration.
The substitute object is the scape goat is, the scapegoat and there are usually socially approved groups which serve as targets for frustration induced aggression. In England during the 1930 s and 1940 s the scapegoat was predominantly the Jews, who were replaced by west Indians during the 1950 s and 1960 s and the 1970 s and 1980 s by Asians from Pakistan.