Social Distance Theory
Social distance can be described as a propensity to approach or withdrawal from a group. The division of people based on a social class, ethnicity, race, and gender can be described as a social distance that prevails within or out of the societies. The differentiated behavior of people that leads them to their segregation with another person or persons of the society is a social distance (Prandy, 2003). For instance if a person is not able to mix up due to race, gender, ethnicity or social class then he will be regarded as a person who is socially distant from another member living in a society. Such a person who is said to be socially distant from a group or society has a tendency to withdraw from a group. On the other hand, a person who approaches a particular society or tries to blend himself with the members of a particular group tries to minimize the social distance.
Between different groups, the social distance varies. For instance, people dominated by authority have a higher social distance than those people who have lower level of authority (Magee and Smith, 2013). A person enjoying a dominating position in his group may be able to influence all the members in it, whereas another person who is in the group but does is merely a member of it may not have any kind of an influence over his group. In order to test and measure the type of social contact among people in different social groups, a social distance scale was developed by Emory S. Bogardus (Wark & Galliher, 2007). It is rather a measure of the level of prejudice that prevails between different people in a diverse social group. It was first initiated in U.S to measure the prejudice of among the early immigrants to the U.S against the latter immigrants. Early immigrants are here referred to early settlers to form America as an independent State, whereas latter settlers or immigrants are those who came here seeking for jobs when American economy started growing. The social distance measuring scale asks people for the level of acceptance for people of different sub group that are a part of a large group. The large group here is like a town or a city where people from different ethnicities or races live. The measurement scale has a reading from 1 to seven. Following is the level of measurement and type of acceptance for people in different groups tied together:
- As a close relative like that of a marriage (Scale point 1)
- Close Personal Friends (scale point 2)
- Neighbors living in a same street as yours (Scale Point 3)
- A colleague in profession (Scale Point 4)
- Fellow citizen in your country (Scale Point 5)
- As a visitor in your country (Scale Point 6)
- Exclusion from your country (Scale Point 7)
This scale defines the level of relationship between individuals in a society (Wark & Galliher, 2007). If a person is in love with a member in his/her group, he can rate 1 on the scale. This will depict his severity in the likeness of that particular person and indicate a close or intimate relationship between the two questioned individuals. Similarly, a rating point of 7 will indicate that a person will not like the questioned person in his social surrounding and may not want to have any kind of a relationship with him.
Prejudice can be defined as arising in a situation when one is working in a group and being treated negatively (Pettigrew et.al, 2009). It results in a discrimination against certain members of group, developing negative feelings. Prejudice has many types such as prejudice in race, class, sex, age, etc. Attitude is a way in which one feels and thinks and thus reflects that in his behavior. It can also be described as a way of expressing feelings for any group, person, object etc. Prejudice can be found in even close or intimate relationships. For instance, in married couples prejudice can be experienced if both partners are working and female partner is more intellectual and earning sufficiently higher than male partner is. In such a scenario, there is a likeliness of male partner getting jealous as he may think that being a male he should be dominating. This kind of a situation is witnessed usually in male dominance societies. There are three types of prejudice, which include:
- Cognitive Prejudice: It can be defined as prejudice in which people believe whatever is true.
- Stereotype: In simple words it can be defined as an exaggerated belief which assumes that whatever is thought or considered for a group belongs to them solely. Above examples of Japanese and American people can fall in this category.
- Emotional Prejudice: These are the feelings that are aroused from thoughts and expression.
Emotional Level Concept
Apart from that, there are certain emotional level concepts that have a tendency to enhance racial difference between people. This includes nearness, remoteness, primacy, and regency. These concepts develop a person’s characteristics, which can lead him to biased behavior to another person. Nearness is the physical closeness; presence of nearness in a person’s attribute may diminish biased feelings for another person. Remoteness refers to the cultural closeness of one person to another. Reduced level of similarity in cultural closeness can result in a biased attitude for another person. Primacy or the first impression evaluation develops a person’s perception imminently. For instance, a person that on the first meeting shows respect will last a good first impression, on the other hand a person who disrespect will depict a negative impression to all such people who interacts. He may not be that kind of a person, but his first impression will be the one which people will remember the most. Regency is the evaluation of the last impression. On many occasions, people store the last impression in their memory for the person they interacted. If it is good then they will remember that particular person in their goof books and vice versa.
Attitudes are endurance belief system of a person. They shape up the behavior of a person to which he/she reacts. They are the core values to which a person stick throughout his life (Pettigrew et.al, 2009). If these endurance belief systems of people are shaped up in a negative way then they will react in accordance to that, most probably their behavior and action will have the tendency to be aggressive.
Discriminatory behavior arises in a situation when one is treated in an unfavorable way because of his certain characteristics and attitudes (Hoff & Pandey, 2006). Discriminatory behavior arises in a situation when one is treated in an unfavorable way because of his certain characteristics and attitudes. According to this, discrimination acts as support for discriminatory policies against immigrants would be interpreted as justified discrimination (i.e., discrimination without prejudice). The problem arises when the use of justifications is seen or perceived as being motivated by prejudice. In this case, the use of socially perceived as legitimate justifications can be found by thinking mechanism biased to legitimize discrimination in egalitarian societies and contexts. Following this reasoning, theoretical arguments and empirical evidence show are presented that provide information regarding the performance of this mechanism in the expression of discriminatory behavior.
Discriminatory behavior is an unfair behavior for a people living in a society. The reasons may be various, for instance, a person can discriminate on racial or ethnic basis, or he can even hate someone just because of a class difference (Chiu et.al, 2001). His hatred will result in a discriminatory behavior for the other person. There is a debate that whether discrimination is a learned behavior or a natural behavior. To a debate the answer is that, discrimination is a learned behavior that develops with age and time. A newborn baby does not have any kind of discrimination or hatred for any person, but his surrounding environment, his education and historical evidences that he is exposed to develop it in him. For example a person born in Japan, will be exposed to the American bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki while receiving his education. This can change his approach of looking things and as he will grow up his discrimination for Americans will grow and he will consider every American to be of the same group of people who bombed his country. Similarly, since the 9/11 attacks on U.S perception of many Americans have changed for the Muslims. Despite of the fact that it was an act of few individuals, many Americans now consider every Muslim as terrorist or those who attacked their land. Discrimination as a learned behavior grows constantly. It can only be eliminated through constructive rebuilding of relationships between members in societies among whom differences prevail. Discriminatory behavior can be of different types that include avoiding people based on prejudice attitude, differentiated facial expression or looks, complete exclusion of certain people from a social surrounding due to interpersonal or intercultural differences, different kind of harassment, and showing violence to a person of disliked group.
According to Merton’s typology of Prejudice and Discrimination, there are unanticipated effects of either an intended or an unintended consequence (Ford, 2013). Unintended consequences are the most difficult to recognize but may have the similar effect over the person who experiences it. According to Merton, prejudice is merely an attitude whereas discrimination is a particular behavior. Merton’s typology of prejudice and discrimination highlights four types of people, which include all weather liberals, fair weather liberal, active bigot, and timid bigot. All weather liberals are people who do not have prejudice and even does not have discrimination in them for anyone. Fair weather liberals on the other hand are people who do not have prejudice, but discrimination members of their social group. Active Bigot is people who do have prejudice and discrimination both in their personalities for other people around them. They tend to hate people who do not belong to them. Lastly, there are people who do have prejudice but are afraid of deliberately exposing it. These are timid bigot people. They may have a certain negative feeling for a person belonging to another race, but they are unable to expose it to other. Among these category of people all weather liberal may accept everyone coming their way.
People in different social groups have different roles. Some people achieve their roles in the society based on their abilities and efforts (Owens & Thompson, 1994). Such roles are defined as achieved roles. For example, a person in a corporation works hard due to which he receives promotion according to his stated growth. He may even reach the top slot of that company due to his efforts and achievements. On the other hand, there are people who receive a particular role in a society due to their heritage. These are ascribed roles. Most relevant example is that of countries where democratic procedures are not carried. A Prince of State may replace his father as a King in accordance to the norms of a specific country where such practices are carried. He may not possess the ability or traits to hold the throne, but since it is a norm, he will be ascribed the role. In addition to that, there are permanent roles, which are attributed through absolute traits. In traditional societies father is the center figure of a home, or figurehead of a family. Furthermore, there are transitory roles that change in accordance to the culture or situation. An example here can be the retirement age of an employee in a corporation.
Conflicts in roles are common and their occurrence very much depends upon how a person is able to fulfill his role. In case a person is unable to fulfill his duties of the role he is assigned, conflicts may arise. In modern day societies, such a case is evident when mothers have to both look for their personal lives and that of their children, with their professional lives. In such a scenario conflicts arise in roles.
Chiu, W. C. K, Chan, A. W, Snape, E and Redman, T (2001). Age stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards older workers: An East–West comparison. Human Relations, SAGE Publications, Volume 54(5): 629–661
Ford, D. Y. (2013). Multicultural Issues : Gifted Underrepresentation and Prejudice--Learning From Allport and Merton. Gifted Child Today, SAGE Publications, 36: 62
Hoff, K., & Pandey, P. (2006). Discrimination, social identity, and durable inequalities. The American Economic Review, 96(2), 206-211.
Magee, J. C and Smith, P. K (2013). The Social Distance Theory of Power. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, SAGE Publications 17: 158
Owens, I. P., & Thompson, D. B. (1994). Sex Differences, Sex Ratios And Sex Roles. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 258(1352), 93-99.
Pettigrew, T. F., Stellmacher, J., Christ, O., & Wagner, U. (2009). How and why does authoritarianism predict prejudice? The mediators of a global phenomenon. Manuscript submitted for publication
Prandy, K. (2003). Marriage, Social Distance and the Social Space: An Alternative Derivation and Validation of the Cambridge Scale. Sociology, SAGE Publications, Volume 37(3): 397–411
Wark, C. & Galliher, J. F (2007). Emory Bogardus and the Origins of the Social Distance Scale. Springer Science, Business Media, 38:383–395