Psychological Self-Help

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strong that it may look to most people like a psychosis or mental illness.
Examples: a few days after September 11, a man walked into a gas station in
Arizona and killed an employee. The murdered man looked like he was from
the Middle East, but he wasn’t. The killer, after he was arrested, simply said
“I stand for America all the way,” as though that explains and justifies his
killing a man that looks Arabic. That wasn’t the only outrageous act against
Muslims after September 11. Over 1,700 reports of harassment and
vandalism to Muslim Americans were reported during just 5 months after
September 11. Apparently in some people’s minds, all Arabs are like the
The fear of foreigners is called xenophobia. There are famous examples of
exaggerated fears of foreigners. One is locking 120,000 Japanese into fenced
in camps during WWII. Most of them were law-abiding American citizens and
there has never been any evidence that the lock up for the war prevented any
anti-war efforts.
Prejudice is often easy to teach, one bad act by a few may influence millions.
Becoming prejudice is so easy that many psychologists believe that it is a
habit that is hardwired into us or that we have a natural tendency to quickly
classify a foreigner as friend or foe or that we divide people into good guys
and bad guys. Once we know who is in the good group and who isn’t—who is
“us” and “them”--, we set about building our self-esteem by finding more and
more good things about our kind and we begin in earnest compiling a long list
of bad traits that the other group has and we take pride we don’t have.
Psychologists, Henri Tajfel and John Turner, named this the “Social Identity
Theory.” The theory explains some self-serving motives for being prejudiced.
I suspect there are several psychological payoffs for being prejudiced.
Several famous psychological experiments demonstrate that a prejudice can
often be taught or created quickly. The Prison Experiment described in the
next section is an example. Also, a third grade teacher, Janet Elliott, created
the now-famous Blue-eyed and Brown-eyed experiment. By giving praise and
advantages to one half of her class, she created new attitudes and negative
feelings in kids who had been congenial friends. There appears to be some
satisfaction in feeling and/or expressing resentment, especially when an
authority seems to encourage negative feelings. The fortunate aspect of this
changeable quality of prejudices is that when we become conscious of or feel
guilty about our biased thoughts and feeling, we can usually change. Several
methods for changing prejudicial feelings are described in this section. The
first step may be to make a conscious commitment to judge everyone
objectively and as an individual, not judging all group members on the basis
of a few individuals or on vague rumors about possible behaviors of members
of a huge group they may belong to
Extreme prejudice
There are several instances of extreme bias, like the murder of the Arizona
man after September 11 that certainly looks totally irrational and psychotic.
There are also instances of people being so homophobic that they can not
work with others (because you never know who they—gays--are). The
prejudiced person may be so afraid of gays that almost all aspects of their
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