Psychological Self-Help

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Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) observed, in a famous
experiment, the self-fulfilling prophecy in the class room. They told the
teachers that certain students would be intellectual "late bloomers" during the
school year. Really these "bloomers" were chosen at random. But because the
teachers expected them to do better, they did! This was a self-fulfilling
prophecy. Another interesting finding in regards to prejudice was that the
predicted and actual "bloomers" were liked by their teachers, but the students
who were not expected to bloom but did were not so liked by their teachers.
Apparently, we humans like to be right. When others don't behave as we
expect them to, we don't like being wrong (and don't like the people who
prove us wrong). 
Recent research of prejudice
Until the 1990’s, temporary mood or emotional changes were not considered
significantly important in understanding prejudice. An individual’s prevailing
mood was considered fairly unimportant and not given much consideration in
terms of how he or she judged others. However, in the last 10 years
researchers have demonstrated that our temporary emotional state has a
quick and significant influence on our judgments about a person who is seen
as “different.” For example, if you increase the general feeling of irritability
within a group of students serving as judges in a experiment or if you do
something to lower the judges’ self-esteem, the subjects (judges) will almost
immediately think of someone different from them (e.g. a Jew or a Black if
they are white and Christian) in a more negative way, e.g. the subjects
(judges) in the experiment are more likely to believe the “different” person
may have stolen something or cheated in some way. Interestingly enough, as
the student (judges) in this experiment describe the “subject” more
negatively or more guilty, they start feeling better about themselves. That is,
when irritated and putting down someone else, people start to feel better
about themselves and “their kind of people.” That alone may be enough
payoffs to produce a prejudiced bias.
The earlier research on prejudice has implied that peoples’ stereotypes largely
determine their intolerant behavior towards the homeless, addicts, the
elderly, and so on. But recently it has been found by Princeton University
psychologists (Oct, 2004, APA Monitor, 34-35) that peoples’ emotional
responses to such groups provide a better prediction (than do stereotypes) of
how they will behaviorally respond to such people. The major emotions
connected to unfair and discriminatory behavior reportedly are pity, disgust,
envy, and pride. For instance, the general population rates the homeless and
addicts as low in warmth and low in competence which lead to feelings of
disgust and to unhelpful reactions. Likewise, the elderly are rated in ways that
give rise to an emotional reaction of pity which leads to a protective response
but also to social exclusion and neglect. Therefore, to understand how one
group treats outgroups of different people, we need to understand the
underlying emotions which seem to be the driving forces behind the
production of prejudiced discrimination and intolerance.
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