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Prejudice Essay

3249 words - 13 pages

The word 'prejudice' derives from the Latin word pre-judicium. Literally it means 'pre-judgment'. In Rome, laws were different for the upper class, the patricians, and for the lower class, the plebeians. The 'pre-judgment' was a judicial examination, held prior to the real trial, to determine first the social status of would-be litigants. Often it meant that, in fact, long before the actual trial, the outcome was established by the 'prejudice'. (Young, 1946)Today's meaning of prejudice comes close to this. Without examining a person on his or her own merit, we have already adopted a negative attitude that implies a judgment. A prejudice is a mixture of beliefs and feelings that predisposes people to respond negatively to members of a particular group.'Prejudice is an emotional, rigid attitude. It leads one to select certain facts for emphasis, blinding one to other facts. It causes one to look on all members of a 'group' as if they were alike'. (Simpson and Yinger, 1972)'Prejudice is an aversive or hostile attitude towards a person who belongs to a group, simply because he or she belongs to that group, and is therefore presumed to have the objectionable qualities ascribed to that group. It is an antipathy based on a faulty and inflexible generalisation.' (Allport, 1954)'Social prejudice is a negative, hostile, rigid and emotional attitude towards a person simply because he or she is perceived to belong to a group, and is presumed to possess the negative qualities ascribed to the group as a result of selective, obsolete or faulty evidence.' (MacGriel, 1977)Prejudice is defined as a positive or negative attitude based on information or knowledge that is either illogical, unrelated to reality, or a distortion of fact, and that is unjustifiably generalized to all the members of a group. As with other attitudes, prejudice can be thought of as consisting of three components: cognitive, affective and behavioural.The beliefs that make up the cognitive component of prejudice are called stereotypes. Stereotypes are categories of cognitions concerning the members of a particular group. These cognitions are usually simple, often over generalised, and frequently inaccurate. Stereotypes are not simply abstractions about group categories. They can act as "cognitive filters" through which we select what information to use, what to ignore, and how to interpret it.A crucial factor in prejudice appears to be the affective component. Stereotypes do not exist in isolation. They are accompanied by emotions, which are usually expressed in terms that can be distributed along a continuum ranging from the intensely negative to the very positive.Discrimination represents the physical component of prejudice. As society becomes more sensitive to racial issues, many people will resist expressing prejudicial attitudes. In fact, some may go so far as to behave in a manner that implies that they are more tolerant than they really are. This process is known as reverse...

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