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Psychologists & prejudice Essay

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According to Dollards et al (1939) frustration-aggression hypothesis aggression that cannot be expressed directly at the source of frustration can be displaced unto a ‘representation’ of the source (scapegoat), leading to bias and prejudice. Unlike the previous cases which have their origins in social learning or social identity this form of prejudice is borne out of the frictional component of social interaction. A ‘solution’ is therefore to reduce this friction as much as possible.

The apartheid era in South Africa did recognise the problem of ‘cultural friction’ and sought to address it by separating black from white. However, the separation was not fair favouring white (supremacy) over black. This in effect only amounted to replacing one source of friction and frustration with another.

Typically, social frustrations are linked to exogenous economic conditions where the contrast between the rich and poor is clearly sharpened. The challenge for any government to implement a solution to such frustrations may be simply be too difficult, or not at all practical.

Germany in the late 1930’s and early forties provides a good example of national frustration followed by an explosion of national prejudice and aggression. The application of the ‘solution’ shaped the history of the 20th century. By understanding the origin and causes of prejudice, psychologists are able to propose methods and conditions that can lead to a reduction of prejudice. However, economic factors, social learning, and identity beliefs based on religion or culture may mean that any attempt to remove prejudice from ‘free’ society will be met with limited success.

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