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that include unrealistically optimistic notions about their ability to handle the
threat and create a positive outcome. These positive illusions are adaptive
in the sense that people who are optimistic will be persistent and creative in
their attempt to handle threat or illness. Most people think they are very happy
with their lives, certainly happier than others. Happy and unhappy individuals
respond differently to both positive and negative events. For example, happy
individuals accepted by a college believe that it is the best place for them.
If they are rejected, they think maybe it wasnʼt such a good choice after all.
Unhappy people seem to live in a world of unappealing choices, and perhaps
it seems to them that it doesnʼt matter which alternative they pick or is chosen
for them. It seems that incompetents maintain happiness and optimism in part
because they are not able to recognize themselves as incompetent.
Chapter 3 Social Perception: Understanding Other People 101

Indeed, it is fair to say that optimists and pessimists do in fact see the
world quite differently. In a very clever experiment, Issacowitz (2005) used eye
tracking to test the idea that pessimists pay more attention to negative stimuli
than do optimists. Positive emotions seem to not only help us ¬ght disease but
some evidence suggests that these positive, optimistic emotions may forestall
the onset of certain diseases.
25. How do distressing events affect happiness?
Research also suggests that we may have a psychological immune system that
regulates our reactions and emotions in response to negative life events. Social
psychological experiments suggest that this psychological immune system”
much like its physiological counterpart that protects us from the ravages of
bacterial and vial invasions”¬ghts off doom and gloom, often under the most
adverse circumstances. So the effects of negative events wear out after a time,
no matter how long people think the effects will last.
26. What does evolution have to do with optimistic biases?
Haselton and Nettle (2006) persuasively argue that these biases serve an
evolutionary purpose. For example, males tend to overestimate the degree
of sexual interest they arouse in females. This is an “adaptive” bias in that
overestimation of sexual interest will result in fewer missed opportunities.
Or, the illusion that one can “beat” a deadly disease may work to prolong life
longer than anyone could possibly have expected.
Prejudice and
Discrimination
If we were to wake up some morning and ¬nd that
everyone was the same race, creed and color, we
would ¬nd some other cause for prejudice by noon.
”George Aiken




The seeds for con¬‚ict and prejudice were planted somewhere in the hills of Key Questions
Palmyra, New York, in 1830. There a young man named Joseph Smith, Jr., As you read this chapter,
received a vision from the angel Moroni. Centuries before, Moroni, as a ¬nd the answers to the
priest of the Nephites, wrote the history of his religion on a set of golden following questions:
plates and buried them in the hills of Palmyra. When Moroni appeared
1. How are prejudice,
to Smith, he revealed the location of the plates and gave him the ability stereotypes, and
to transcribe the ancient writings into English. This translated text became discrimination de¬ned?
the Book of Mormon, the cornerstone of the Mormon religion. The Book
2. What is the relationship
of Mormon contained many discrepancies from the Bible. For example, it among prejudice, stereotypes,
suggested that God and Jesus Christ were made of ¬‚esh and bone. and discrimination?
The con¬‚icts between this newly emerging religion and established
3. What evidence is there for
Christianity inevitably led to hostile feelings and attitudes between the two the prevalence of these three
groups. Almost from the moment of Joseph Smith™s revelations, the persecution concepts from a historical
of the Mormons began. Leaving Palmyra, the Mormons established a perspective?
settlement in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831, but it was a disaster. The Mormons 4. What are the personality roots
didn™t ¬t in well with the existing community. For example, the Mormons of prejudice?
supported the Democratic Party, whereas most of the Christian population in 5. How does gender relate to
Kirtland supported the Whigs. Mormonism also was a threat to the colonial prejudice?
idea of a single religion in a community. At a time when heresy was a serious
6. What are the social roots of
crime, the Mormons were seen as outcast heretics. As a result, the Mormons prejudice?
were the targets of scathing newspaper articles that grossly distorted their
7. What is modern racism, and
religion. Mormons were socially ostracized, were denied jobs, became the
what are the criticisms of it?
targets of economic boycotts, and lived under constant threat of attack.
8. What are the cognitive roots
Because of the hostile environment in Kirtland, the Mormons moved on,
of prejudice?
splitting into two groups. One group began a settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois,
9. How do cognitive biases
and the other in Independence, Missouri. In neither place did the Mormons
contribute to prejudice?
¬nd peace. Near Nauvoo, for example, a Mormon settlement was burned to
103
Social Psychology
104


the ground, and its inhabitants were forced to take cover in a rain-soaked woods
10. Are stereotypes ever until they could make it to Nauvoo. At the Independence settlement in 1833,
accurate, and can they Mormon Bishop Edward Partridge was tarred and feathered after refusing to
be overcome?
close a store and print shop he supervised. The tensions in Missouri grew so bad
11. What are implicit and that then Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued the following order: “The Mormons
explicit stereotypes? must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the State if
necessary, for the public peace” (Arrington & Bitton, 1979).
12. How do prejudiced
and nonprejudiced As a result of the prejudice experienced by the Mormons, they became more
individuals differ? clannish, trading among themselves and generally keeping to themselves. As you
might imagine, this further enraged the Christian community that hoped to bene¬t
13. What is the impact of
prejudice on those who economically from the Mormon presence. It was not uncommon for Mormons
are its target?
to become the targets of vicious physical attacks or even to be driven out of a
14. How can a person who territory. There was even talk of establishing an independent Mormon state, but
is the target of prejudice eventually, the Mormons settled in Utah.
cope with being a
The fate of the Mormons during the 1800s eerily foreshadowed the treatment
target?
of other groups later in history (e.g., Armenians in Turkey, Jews in Europe, ethnic
15. What can be done Albanians in Yugoslavia). How could the Mormons have been treated so badly
about prejudice?
in a country with a Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion and founded
on the premise of religious tolerance?
Attitudes provide us with a way of organizing information about objects and a
way to attach an affective response to that object (e.g., like or dislike). Under the
right circumstances, attitudes predict one™s behavior. In this chapter, we explore
a special type of attitude directed at groups of people: prejudice. We look for
the underlying causes of incidents such as the Mormon experience and the other
acts of prejudice outlined. We ask, How do prejudiced individuals arrive at their
views? Is it something about their personalities that leads them to prejudice-based
acts? Or do the causes lie more in the social situations? What cognitive processes
cause them to have negative attitudes toward those they perceive to be different
from themselves? How pervasive and unalterable are those processes in human
beings? What are the effects of being a target of prejudice and discrimination?
What can we do to reduce prejudice and bring our society closer to its ideals?



The Dynamics of Prejudice, Stereotypes,
and Discrimination
When we consider prejudice we really must consider two other interrelated concepts:
stereotyping and discrimination. Taken together, these three make up a triad of processes
that contribute to negative attitudes, emotions, and behaviors directed at members of
certain social groups. First, we de¬ne just what social psychologists mean by the term
prejudice and the related concepts of stereotype and discrimination.

Prejudice
prejudice A biased attitude, The term prejudice refers to a biased, often negative, attitude toward a group of people.
positive or negative, based
Prejudicial attitudes include belief structures, which contain information about a group
on insuf¬cient information
of people, expectations concerning their behavior, and emotions directed at them. When
and directed at a group,
negative prejudice is directed toward a group, it leads to prejudgment of the individual
which leads to prejudgment
of members of that group. members of that group and negative emotions directed at them as well. It is important
Chapter 4 Prejudice and Discrimination 105

to note that the nature of the emotion directed at a group of people depends on the
group to which they belong (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005). In fact, Cottrell and Neuberg
have constructed “pro¬les” characterizing the emotions directed at members of various
groups. For example, African Americans (relative to European Americans) yield a pro¬le
showing anger/resentment, fear, disgust, and pity. In contrast, Native Americans mostly
elicited pity with low levels of anger/resentment, disgust, and fear.
Prejudice also involves cognitive appraisals that are tied to different emotions
directed at members of stigmatized groups (Nelson, 2002). For example, fear might
be elicited if you ¬nd yourself stranded late at night in a neighborhood with a sizeable
minority population. On the other hand, you might feel respect when at a professional
meeting that includes members from that very same minority group. In short, we appraise
(evaluate) a situation and experience an emotion consistent with that appraisal. This
can account for the fact that we rarely exhibit prejudice toward all members of a stig-
matized group (Nelson, 2002). We may display prejudice toward some members of a
group, but not toward others in that group.
Of course, prejudice can be either positive or negative. Fans of a particular sports
team, for example, are typically prejudiced in favor of their team. They often believe
calls made against their team are unfair, even when the referees are being impartial.
Social psychologists, however, have been more interested in prejudice that involves a
negative bias”that is, when one group assumes the worst about another group and may
base negative behaviors on these assumptions. It is this latter form of prejudice that is
the subject of this chapter.

Different Forms of Prejudice
Prejudice comes in a variety of forms, the most visible of which are racism and sexism.
Racism is the negative evaluation of others primarily because of their skin color. It
includes the belief that one racial group is inherently superior to another. Sexism is the
negative evaluation of others because of their gender (Lips, 1993). Of course, other
forms of prejudice exist, such as religious and ethnic prejudice and heterosexism (nega-
tive attitudes toward gay men and lesbians), but racism and sexism are the two most
widespread prejudices within U.S. society.
We must be very careful when we want to approach the issue of prejudice from a
scienti¬c perspective not to get caught up in the web of de¬nitions of prejudice ¬‚oat-
ing around in our culture. Partisan political groups and some media have propagated
de¬nitions for prejudice that encompass behaviors that a more scienti¬c de¬nition
would not. For example, on the Web site of the Center for the Study of White American
Culture (http://www.euroamerican.org/library/Racismdf.asp), we are offered the fol-
lowing de¬nition of racism (actually, this is just the ¬rst among many principles de¬n-
ing racism):
Racism is an ideological, structural, and historic strati¬cation process by which
the population of European descent, through its individual and institutional
distress patterns, intentionally has been able to sustain, to its own best advantage,
the dynamic mechanics of upward or downward mobility (of ¬‚uid status
assignment) to the general disadvantage of the population designated as non-
white (on a global scale), using skin color, gender, class, ethnicity or nonwestern
nationality as the main indexical criteria used for enforcing differential resource
allocation decisions that contribute to decisive changes in relative racial standing
in ways most favoring the populations designated as “white.”
Social Psychology
106

Notice that this de¬nition ties the notion of racism to the idea of keeping certain
groups economically disadvantaged. What is interesting about the de¬nition of racism
offered on this site is how close it sounds to a socialist/Marxist manifesto. With only
slight modi¬cations, the de¬nition sounds much like such a manifesto. For example,
what follows is the same de¬nition offered previously with a few strategic wording
changes (shown in italics):
Capitalism is an ideological, structural and historic strati¬cation process by
which the ruling elite, through its individual and institutional distress patterns,
intentionally has been able to sustain, to its own best advantage, the dynamic
mechanics of upward or downward mobility (of ¬‚uid status assignment) to the
general disadvantage of the proletariat (on a global scale), using social class as
the main criterion used for enforcing differential resource allocation decisions
that contribute to decisive changes in relative racial standing in ways most
favoring the ruling elite.
Another thing we need to be careful about is the overapplication of the term racism
(or any other “ism) to behaviors not usually associated with prejudicial attitudes. Another
trend in our culture by partisan political parties and the media is to apply the term racism
to just about anything they see as opposing certain political ideas. Table 4.1 shows a list
of such applications collected from the Internet. You could be branded as some kind of
“-ist” if you adhere to one of the views listed. The point we wish to make is whether or
not opposing some political idea or goals of a group makes you a racist.

What Exactly Does Race Mean?
An important note should be added here about the concept of race. Throughout U.S.
history, racial categories have been used to distinguish groups of human beings from one
another. However, biologically speaking, race is an elusive and problematic concept. A
personʼs race is not something inherited as a package from his or her parents; nor are
biological characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, eye shape, facial features, and
so on valid indicators of oneʼs ethnic or cultural background. Consider, for example, an
individual whose mother is Japanese and father is African American, or a blond, blue-
eyed person who is listed by the U.S. Census Bureau as Native American because her
maternal grandmother was Cherokee. To attempt to de¬ne these individuals by race
is inaccurate and inappropriate. Although many scientists maintain that race does not
exist as a biological concept, it does exist as a social construct.
People perceive and categorize others as members of racial groups and often act
toward them according to cultural prejudices. In this social sense, race and racism are
very real and important factors in human relations. When we refer to race in this book,
such as when we discuss race-related violence, it is this socially constructed concept,
with its historical, societal, and cultural signi¬cance, that we mean.

Stereotypes
Prejudicial attitudes do not stem from perceived physical differences among people,
such as skin color or gender. Rather, prejudice relates more directly to the characteristics
we assume members of a different racial, ethnic, or other group have. In other words,
it relates to the way we think about others.
People have a strong tendency to categorize objects based on perceptual features
or uses. We categorize chairs, tables, desks, and lamps as furniture. We categorize love,
hate, fear, and jealousy as emotions. And we categorize people on the basis of their
Chapter 4 Prejudice and Discrimination 107


Table 4.1 Overapplications of the Concept of Prejudice

You might be a racist (or some kind of “ist) if:
1. You think that a state should decide whether its ¬‚ag should display the Confederate
battle ¬‚ag.
2. You behave in ways that discriminate against minorities, even if discrimination was
not intended.
3. You like a team™s mascot that has a racial origin (e.g., Native American).
4. You “apply words like backward, primitive, uncivilized, savage, barbaric, or
undeveloped to people whose technology [is less advanced]” (http://¬c.ic.org/
cmag/90/4490.html).
5. You believe that monotheism is better than polytheism.
6. You believe that English should be the of¬cial language of the United States.
7. You DON™T believe that all “accents” and “dialects” are legitimate, proper, and
equal in value.”
8. You oppose af¬rmative action.
9. You oppose gay marriage.



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