Prejudice

Write a talk, that you would deliver to an audience about the research concerning prejudice and discrimination. Explain and discuss using your own words, a minimum of three concepts or themes that you think would be important for your audience to know about prejudice. Your talk should inform them about information they might be surprised to learn.

Important Points:

1. Be certain to incorporate specific terms, issues, and/or research studies in your talk. Write in a way that would be understandable to an audience who is unfamiliar with course content.

2. The minimum number of concepts or themes to include is three but including more may lead to a higher grade.

3. What you write must be framed as a “talk.” It should not be an outline of three or more concepts or themes without a narrative.

4. Your talk must be based on information covered in the course. It should not be based on your opinion.

5. It is difficult to specify how long your talk should be. It should however, be a minimum of two and a half to three pages.

attachments may help, they are lecture notes.

Stereotypes: How do they Affect our Perception, Judgments and Behavior toward Others?

Imagine the following situation. You are an accountant at one of the Big Eight accounting firms, Price Waterhouse. This is one of the most prestigious accounting firms in the country. You are a top manager here. You have brought in millions of dollars in accounts, you have worked more billable hours than anyone in your group of managers, you are well liked by clients and you are described as aggressive, hard-driving and ambitious. Despite your exemplary performance though, you are denied promotion to partnership. How could this happen?

This did happen to Ann Hopkins who worked at Price Waterhouse. She was told that she had not been promoted to partner because she had an “interpersonal skills problem” that could be corrected if she would walk more femininely, talk more femininely, take a course in charm school, wear make-up and jewelry and have her hair styled. In other words, Ms. Hopkins did not conform to the stereotype of how women should behave and she was penalized for this. Ms. Hopkins filed a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbids employment discrimination based on sex. The court ruled that Price Waterhouse had denied her partnership based in part on illegal sexual stereotyping and she won her case. Social psychologist, Susan Fiske testified during the trial about the power of stereotypes to influence people’s judgments and behavior and her testimony helped the court to decide in Ms. Hopkin’s favor. This case highlights the power that stereotypes can have in every day life.

Once we have categorized someone as belonging to a particular group, stereotypes about that group might pop into our heads. Recall that stereotypes are “pictures in our head.” They involve a set of shared beliefs about the characteristics of a group of people. Is it terrible if we think about a person stereotypically? Should we feel badly about ourselves if we do? What would happen if we had no stereotypes at all about people? Could we function without them?

If we had no stereotypes at all about other people, life would be like continually visiting another planet where we didn’t have a clue about anyone or

 

 

2

anything. Consider for example, meeting a 65-year-old woman at a party. As she walks over to you in order to start a conversation, you begin to think about possible topics you could discuss. You certainly wouldn’t ask her if she is thinking about starting a family. Your stereotype of what 65-year-old women do leads you to expect that starting a family would not be a top priority at her age (but you could be wrong). The stereotype of senior citizens would direct your conversation so that you might be more likely to ask her if she is retired rather than inquire about her family planning goals. Stereotypes then, serve a useful purpose. They offer us quick and convenient summaries of information about social groups. Stereotypes however, are not without their shortcomings. They often cause us to overlook the diversity within groups and to form mistaken impressions of specific individuals. Stereotypes are easily formed and difficult to change. They shape how we interpret events and they influence our behavior.

Where do Stereotypes Come From? When asked to explain prejudice, people typically point first to parents and

second to the media. Parents may directly teach stereotypes to their children. For example, they may tell a child that trucks are for boys and not for girls. Often though, stereotypes are communicated in indirect and subtle ways.

Katz and other researchers for example, observed parents looking through a book with their child. The book contained pictures of people of different colors, ages and gender. She noted that the parents almost never mentioned racial differences to the children, although they did mention gender frequently. However, they also found that some parents tended to focus especially on the pictures of people of their own color and to ignore the others. Children whose parents did this showed high levels of prejudice at ages five or six.

Media Influence The media (including television, film, and advertising) is saturated with

stereotypes. A recent examination of more than 1000 Hollywood films for example,

revealed that Arabs are consistently portrayed as murderers, rapists, abusers of women and religious fanatics. These films also conveyed the incorrect message

 

 

3

that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are Arabs. Real Arabs however, are an ethnically diverse group of people, the majority of whom are peaceful. Can these media images of Arabs affect our perception of this group?

African Americans are often depicted as excitable and violent, consistent with stereotypes of aggressiveness, and Asians tend to be depicted as calm, consistent with stereotypes of studiousness and passivity.

Major news magazines most often use pictures of African Americans to represent the poor, leading people to the incorrect conclusion that most poor people are Black.

In commercials, Whites are shown more frequently than any other ethnic group and they are portrayed more prominently and are more often seen in positions of authority. This pattern even holds on Black Entertainment Television, although more Blacks appear in commercials here than on other networks. Latinos, are virtually invisible in commercials.

Gender stereotypes are common in media images. Women are frequently portrayed as sexual objects and are shown in subordinate positions. Current day depictions of women in print advertisements have not changed much since the 1950s.

Dixon and Linz looked at television news in California. They found that Whites were more likely to be shown as crime victims than were Blacks. Lawbreakers seen on television news, in contrast, were more likely to be Black than White. When compared with actual crime reports, the portrayals of victims overrepresented Whites; conversely, Blacks were overrepresented as perpetrators. Interestingly, Latinos were largely absent from news reports, both as victims and as perpetrators. Studies in Chicago and Philadelphia have shown similar results. For example, 80% of references to Blacks in Philadelphia television newscasts were negative, whereas for Whites, less than two thirds were negative.

Other studies have also shown that people of color are more likely to shown as criminals and European Americans are more likely to be shown as crime victims. Reports of crime committed by people of color on television news were 20% higher than would be expected based on FBI actual crime statistics. What do you think might be the effect of biased news presentation?

 

 

4

The stereotypic belief that Blacks are more likely to commit crime also appears to have affected the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. News images circulated widely on the Internet were revealing. A photograph of a Black man walking through water carrying a case of soft drinks had the caption “A young man walks through chest deep water after looting a grocery store” while a photograph of a White couple similarly walking through water carrying food and drink had the caption “Two residents wade through chest deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store.” Clearly, looting does not have the same connotations as does finding food and drink and only the former reflects a negative stereotype of criminality. Reporting such as this may shape people’s responses to others in ways they may not always detect. What is equally disturbing is that people see the world presented on television as similar to the real world; studies show that the vast majority of people of all ages agree with the statement that “Local TV news shows me the way the world really is.”

The devaluation of overweight people occurs frequently in the media. On the whole though, penalties for overweight women are more severe than for men. Not only are heavy women underrepresented in the media relative to thin women, but thin female characters receive more social rewards such as praise and dates, and fewer social punishments such as criticism or isolation. Much of the criticism of heavy women occurs in a very direct manner, suggesting that this type of prejudice is more socially acceptable than other forms of prejudice.

It is easy to believe that these stereotypic portrayals do not affect us. Research evidence suggests the contrary however. The more television older children watch, the more they hold gender and racial stereotypes (among preschool children, television watching is linked with positive attitudes, since younger children tend to watch more educational programming, such as Sesame Street, which depicts diversity in a positive way). Watching more television is also related to holding negative stereotypes of older adults, perhaps because older people are often portrayed negatively.

It should be noted however, that the studies just discussed are correlational in nature. This means that we cannot say definitively that biased media portrayals cause people to be seen stereotypically.

 

 

 

5