Psychological Self-Help

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92
Experimentally created prejudice and new research
As described above, the Zimbardo "Prison Experiment" created negative,
prejudiced attitudes just by placing some people in power over others, like
guards, who were powerless, like prisoners. These guards were ordinary
college students but they were within a short time insulting and humiliating
the prisoners. Before long the prisoners were being abused (the experiment
had to be stopped). This suggests almost anyone can quickly become
prejudiced and cruel, in the right circumstances. It says something about
human nature, namely, ordinary people will torture enemy prisoners. Please
note that the Abu Ghraib prison situation seems quite similar to this
psychological experiment. Also note that this is knowledge the military must
stay aware of (Fiske, Harris, & Cuddy, 2004).
One might wonder if the same animosity happens between controlling
management and complying workers in industry. There are other examples of
almost instant prejudice. One third-grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa, gave a
lesson in discrimination. The teacher divided the class into two groups: blue-
eyed and brown-eyed. Each group got the same special privileges and praise
on alternate days. On the days their group was favored, the students felt
"smarter," "stronger," "good inside," and enjoyed keeping the "inferiors" in
their place. The same children on the deprived or inferior days felt tense,
unsure of themselves, and did poorer work. They learned within a few hours
to feel and act negatively toward long-term "friends." Humans seem much
better at learning prejudices than math, said the teacher.
In a famous study, Sheriff and others (Sheriff & Hovland, 1961) designed
a boys' camp to study relations between two groups. The boys did everything
with the same group, soon friendships and group spirit developed. Then the
psychologists had the groups compete with each other in tug-of-war and
various games. At first, there was good sportsmanship, but soon tension and
animosity developed. There was name-calling, fights, and raids on the
"enemy" cabins. Anger was easily created via competition, but could the
experimenters create peace? The psychologists tried getting the groups
together for good times--good food, movies, sing-alongs, etc. What
happened? The anger continued. The groups threw food at each other,
shoved, and yelled insults. 
Next, the psychologists set up several situations where the two groups
had to work together to get something they wanted. There was a break in the
water line that had to be fixed (or camp would be closed). The food truck
broke down and it took everyone's cooperation to push it. When they worked
together on these serious, important tasks, they didn't fight. Indeed,
friendships developed. Just as competition led to friction among equals,
cooperative work led to positive feelings. Ask yourself: when did our country
last cooperate with the Russians, the Japanese, the Chinese, or the Cubans to
educate or feed hurting people? Or, when did you last work meaningfully with
the people you view negatively? 
Psychologists have other explanations
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