Taking any three psychological theories of prejudice

The first experiment I would like to look at is Adorno et al (1950). In this experiment Adorno hypothesised that a child’s personality especially their level of prejudice came from the way in which they were raised by their parents. Adorno argued that if children were brought up in an authoritarian environment, where the children were not allowed to express themselves they would aim there anger towards other parties. Adorno calculated that the most likely targets or scapegoats for this pent up aggression would be weaker minority groups, and would use these minorities as an ego-defensive prop.

He tested his, white, middle class, non-Jewish, American, male subjects on two scales, the F scale that measured people’s authoritarian and anti democratic personality traits and the PEC scale that measured peoples reluctance to social change. Adorno et al found that people who scored highly on the PEC scale usually scored highly on the F scale. Adorno concluded that this meant people who were raised in an authoritarian manner were more likely to be prejudiced.

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If this experiment was correct an obvious way to reduce prejudice would be to ensure children were not brought up in strict environments, as this would allow them to vent their frustrations towards their parents and not towards scapegoats and minority groups in later life. However there are too many criticisms in Adorno’s experiment for this to be correct. There is no explanation why some people brought up in authoritarian households are not prejudice, also there is no explanation for why people brought up in non-authoritarian households can also be prejudice.

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Adorno used an extremely small cross section of people from non-ethnic, non-minority backgrounds. Methodologically his experiment was also debatable as agreement with a statement always indicated an authoritarian personality. Also with every survey type experiment, people will only answer the first few questions attentively, and it is just from the subjects opinions of how they would react to the statements, not observation of how they would react in real life situations. To completely rubbish Adorno’s experiment we can look at Pettigrew (1958), who found that scores on Adorno’s F and PEC scales were the same when tested on people in the north and the south of America, even though the people in the south of America at that time were highly prejudice towards black people.

The second experiment I would like to look at is Sherif et al (1961). In this experiment twenty two, white, middle class, eleven and twelve year old boys were sent to a summer camp in Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. Prior to arriving at the camp the boys were separated in to two groups of eleven. The two groups were given time away from each other in which they were given tasks, friendships within the groups quickly formed at this point each group unaware of the other groups existence. When the two groups became aware of each other, sporting tournaments with prizes were arranged between the groups. This caused hostility between the groups that quickly degenerated into fighting, taunting and vandalising. After causing prejudice between the groups Sherif now wanted to see if he could reduce the ill feeling between the groups. He tried organising social events that did not help, so they organised super-ordinate goals. After a few attempts at this, friendships started to form between the groups. Sherif concluded that super-ordinate tasks could pull groups together.

I think that Sherif is correct, in that interdependent actions where prejudice groups are forced to work together for a common goal breaks down barriers between groups. This only happens when contact is great enough & intimate enough to overcome misperception. Also this experiment is credible because of the subjects young age and the real to life ‘summer camp’ setting. This means they were probably not acting out demand characteristics. However these children were of the same age and ethnic backgrounds and were almost forced through competition not to like each other. So to bring friendship and social acceptance between two such small groups of people, with such a lot in common is difficult to relate to huge prejudice problems in the real world. Read why vandalism happen

Sherif’s ethics are also questionable as he may have caused distress by instigating fights and prejudice feelings between the young boys, and could not be sure how this would effect their personalities as they grew up and in later life. The experiment is also impossible to replicate as there are to many variables, and can therefore not be checked to see if the same would happen again. There is also no control group, there should have been another twenty two boys in an extremely similar camp who were not separated, their fighting, taunting and vandalism should also have been recorded. So that we knew this is not how eleven and twelve year old boys would act anyway if at a summer camp.

The third experiment I would like to look at is Star et al (in Stouffer et al 1949). This study was of white officers and enlisted infantrymen in the Second World War. At this point in history almost all white and black people were living segregated with white people assuming superiority over black people being the norm and considered socially acceptable. The survey asked the officers and infantrymen how well they were getting along with the black soldiers they were serving with. Ninety three percent of the white officers asked responded ‘very well’ and sixty percent of the infantry men reported the same, every body else said they were getting along ‘fairly well’. However one soldier commented ‘they fought and I think more of them for it, but I still wouldn’t want to be a soldier in garrison with them’. In a similar experiment Minard (1952) conducted a study to see how well the black and white miners worked together. He found that the miners were good friends and worked well together while underground, but when the miners were above ground, in out of work hours they did not mingle and only gathered in groups of their own race.

Both of these experiments show that while people are working together for a common goal they will get along very well. But once they are out of that environment and back in the social arena they will respond more to what is socially acceptable and to try and fit in with their peers. These experiments are highly credible as they are in times when prejudice was accepted, so they would be less embarrassed to answer and act racist than somebody would today. However as the experiments were conducted such a long time ago there can be questions asked of their relevance as to how society views prejudice today.

To conclude I think all three of these ways of reducing prejudice must be included. I think that the authoritarianism theory from Adorno is not credible. However I think people need to be taught that prejudice is wrong at an early age, or else as we can see in the Star and Minard experiments even common goals can not completely break down prejudice. I think that the star and Minard experiments dis-prove Sherifs experiment because there is no real social background or prejudice between the groups before the experiment starts.

Sherif only has to destroy a few weeks of bad feeling between the groups, where as in Star and Minards experiment the pressure form social acceptance and years of prejudice is too great for a common goal to unite the black and white people after the goal is achieved. So we need society as a whole to embrace super-ordinate goals and equal status contact, and for society to frown upon and punish prejudice to reduce its impact. Everything and everyone must be de-segregated and it must be seen as the norm for every race creed and culture to play, learn and work together. A good example of this comes from Bogatz and Ball (1971) who found that white children who watched mixed race television programmes like ‘Sesame Street’ had better attitudes towards blacks and Hispanics.

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Taking any three psychological theories of prejudice. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/taking-three-psychological-theories-prejudice-new-essay

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