Theories Of Prejudice

What are the reasons for prejudice people?  Is it frustration?  Personality conflicts? Cultural Conflicts?  Social Conflicts?….or are people just ignorant?  Let’s look at the theories that social scientists have suggested:

    • Scapegoat Theory:  This prejudice springs from frustration among people who are themselves disadvantaged (Dollard, 1939).  Let’s define scapegoat:  a person or category of people typically with little power, whom people unfairly blame for their own troubles.  Have you ever seen this happen?  Think of a low wage person blaming the presence of minority workers at their job instead of the powerful people who operate the establishment.
    • Authoritarian Personality Theory:  According to T.W. Adorno et al. (1950), extreme prejudice is a personality trait in certain individuals.  This conclusion is supported by research showing that people who display strong prejudice toward one minority usually are intolerant of all minorities.  These people look upon society as naturally competitive and hierarchical, with “better” people (like them) inevitably dominating those who are weaker.
    • Culture Theory:  This theory says that extreme prejudice may be characteristic of certain people, but some prejudice is found in everyone because it is embedded in culture.  Think of a child growing up and their parents telling them they should marry from the same ethnic group.


  • Conflict Theory: Part of this theory is when powerful people use prejudice to justify oppression others.   Another great example is when minorities claim that they are victims and therefore are entitled to special consideration based on their race.  What about Affirmative Action? The term affirmative actiondescribes policies aimed at a historically socio-politically non-dominant group (typically, minority men or women of all races) intended to promote access to education or employment. Motivation for affirmative action is a desire to redress the effects of past and current discrimination that is regarded as unfair. It also serves to encourage public institutions such as universities, hospitals and police forces to be more representative of the population.

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