Stereotyping and prejudices are present in people's everyday life. They are shaped by the culture and their immediate surroundings such is family and tradition. Discrimination may be based on race, religion, geographic separation, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Closed cultures are more liable to the occurrence of stereotyping, prejudices and discrimination, and in some cases civil wars arise due to these differences.
The term stereotyping refers to general assumptions and attitudes based on the assumptions that all members of a certain group have certain traits that are only characteristic for this particular group. Stereotyping is classified in the terms of their ethnical origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender or some other characteristics that differentiate them from the majority. "A stereotype can be defined as a generalized belief about the characteristics of a group, and stereotyping represents the process attributing these characteristics to particular individuals only because of their membership in the group" (Baumeister and Finkel, 345). Stereotypes that are held against others are not just negative, they can be positive as well. The example of positive stereotype is that it is believed that people from Africa are better athletes than Europeans (Baumeister and Finkel). Stereotypes are not necessarily emotional and may not lead to discrimination. However, there is a possibility for abusing occurrence due to stereotyping.
On the other hand, prejudices represent attitudes that are not based on a valid experience or rational arguments. Prejudices are tendentious generalizations, burdened affectively and very resistant to change. In social psychology, racial and ethnical prejudices are the subjects of study. Prejudices do not include only unfounded negative opinion about other social groups and uncritical positive attitude of own social group, but the willingness for persecution, segregation and extermination of members of other race or nation. "We now define prejudice as a negative attitude toward a group or toward members of a group" (Nelson 2). Through the history, human mankind witnessed many wars and ethnical cleansings due to the prejudices against certain social groups (World War II and systemic extermination of Jews). The difference between prejudice and stereotyping is that stereotyping is typical for one group, community or a culture, where prejudices are formed individually. The fact that two persons were raised in the same culture and yet one person does not have negative attitude towards LGBT population and the other has certain pre-based negative opinion about LGBT population is due to prejudice created by an individual. Once formed, prejudices are difficult to decrease. One of the theories that lead to reduction of prejudices is "contact hypothesis". According to theory, "interpersonal contact of members of the outgroup provides an opportunity for disconfirming negative expectations and building positive relations that can influence attitudes toward the outgroup as a whole" (Baumeister and Finkel 551).
Discrimination is important factor of social exclusion. As opposed to stereotyping and discrimination that represent attitudes and beliefs, discrimination implies realistic behavior. Baumeister and Finkel state that: "Discrimination can be defined as the differential treatment of individuals, based on their membership in a particular group. Such treatment can often be motivated by prejudice, but it may also result from ethnocentric feelings that are devoid from animus" (343). There are many forms of discrimination, but they always relate to some type of exclusion and rejection. Discrimination can be manifested through unequal treatment in employment, unequal access to certain services (education, health insurance, social protection) or unequal treatment in everyday life. Individuals and groups can be exposed to discrimination due to almost any biological or social trait: age, race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, language, social class, sexual orientation, and political beliefs. "Act of discrimination necessarily involve two participants: the perpetrator and the victim" (Taylor, Wright & Porter 233). This points out to the fact that discrimination relates to behavior. On the other hand, prejudice against someone does not necessarily mean immediate behavior against that individual or a social group.
Prejudices influence social behavior of every individual. Prejudices are closely related with ignorance regarding some individual or social group and this leads to insufficient communication between different social groups. Prejudices close behavior, do not allow people to enter into social interactions just because they have a certain prejudice. Furthermore, this leads to disabling of further intellectual and emotional development, development of personality and tolerance.
There are many factors that influence human behavior. Psychology and especially social psychology helped me to analyze some of my experiences and find a reason for my reaction and reaction of my friend. One of my friends was in a difficult situation because he was a Muslim. After 9/11, most of the world though that being a Muslim meant that he or she is automatically a terrorist. Due to this, he was the victim of stereotyping. Everyone evaded him and he was always alone. One could notice the sadness in his eyes because he could not assimilate with the others. This class helped me to understand the reasons and the outcomes of the human behavior as well as the other side-the side of the victim. People influence each other and someone’s action automatically influences other life. This class also increased my level or tolerance and taught me that generalization and ignorance can be a powerful tool for creating mass intolerance towards everything that is different.
Nelson T. Todd. Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination. New York: Psychology Press.2009. Print.
Baumeister, F. Roy, Finkel J. Eli. Advanced Social Psychology: The State of the Science. Oxford University Press. 2010. Print
Taylor M. Donald, Wright C. Stephen, & Porter E. Lana. Discrimination: The Personal/Group Discrepancy. Web.