How to Reduce Prejudice and Stereotyping
Prejudice is a judgement based on feelings about a member of a particular group. It is a human instinct that is believed it has evolved to help us in survival. Humans tend to categorize others according to whether they are part of an in-group or an out-group. They feel more comfortable and safe in a group, so they tend to protect their group and have prejudice against others that are not part of the group. Prejudice can also forms due to a couple phenomenon such as the halo effect and the fundamental attribution error (Heinzen and Goodfriend 2019).
The halo effect consists of the fact that people tend to perceive others based on the first impression or the expectation they previously had of that person. All the perceived attributes revolve around one particular thing. On the other hand, the fundamental attribution error is the human tendency when we attribute an action of someone as being the result of their personality, rather than the situation. These two effects have also been linked to having evolved to help us in survival, but they are also why stereotypes and prejudice appeared (Heinzen and Goodfriend 2019).
Allport noted in his contact hypothesis (1979) that to reduce prejudice between two enemy groups, there is a set of four criteria that have to be met, the more the better. These criteria are: equal status between groups, getting to know each other on an individual level (friendship across groups), authority support of the positive change, and working together on a common goal (Heinzen and Goodfriend 2019).
Out of these four criteria, the two most important and most effective ones are the forming of friendship across groups and working together for a common goal. Sherif studied these methods in his study group of young boys in the Robbers Cave Study and noticed a huge improvement of the hostile situation after implementing these methods (Heinzen and Goodfriend 2019). I can also vouch for these from personal experience. But there are other studies that prove the effectiveness of direct and extended contact across groups in reducing prejudice.
An article by Turner, Hewstone, and Voci (2007) took four independent studies as basis to analyse the effects of self-disclosure and extended contact on intergroup attitude and prejudice reduction. The four studies included 462 participants in total and they all concluded that extended contact reduces intergroup anxiety and prejudice. These findings reinforced Sherif’s idea and Allport’s hypothesis.
Based on these findings, on Sherif’s original idea, and on my personal experience, I would also organize a summer camp for teenagers to help reduce prejudice towards gypsies. Hating on gypsies and other immigrants is a huge issue in Europe, way worse than the racism towards people of color in the United States. I had the opportunity to go to a summer camp where white teenagers and orphan gypsy teenagers were brought together to do many interesting, team building activities together and spend time together over a couple weeks. This led to making friendships across groups and increased empathy towards the gypsy group that was looked down upon previously.
It is important to start shaping the opinions of people at a young age, because then they are more open to accepting new information and making new friends. Unfortunately, they are also more open to negative influences from society, parents, and the media as well – and this is how stereotypes managed to survive for so long (Heinzen and Goodfriend 2019).
For older adults, I believe that simply creating a diverse work culture at a company can have positive effects too. At work these two criteria (extended contact and working on a common goal) are also present, so there is every possibility that the employees will form positive relationships and have an altered perspective on outgroups in the end.
In conclusion, there are several ways to reduce prejudice between two groups, without force: institutional support, equal status, common goal, and intergroup friendships. Studies show that the latter two seem to be the most effective ones, and they can be implemented in classrooms for young children, in camps for teenagers, and at work and team building events for older adults.
Heinzen, T., & Goodfriend, W. (2019). Social psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Allport, G. W. (1979). The nature of prejudice. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Turner, R. N., Hewstone, M., & Voci, A. (2007). Reducing explicit and implicit outgroup prejudice via direct and extended contact: the mediating role of self-disclosure and intergroup anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(3).