The Power of Influence of the Prejudices on Individuality

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A preconceived opinion about an idea or topic like race can affect the whole more than the individual. Prejudice can influence people to think a certain way about serious matters. Racial prejudice is a generational issue that we still face today. However, what should be examined is the root of it all, which lies in the ability to influence others into believing your race superior to all others. To further understand this concept, I dove into research and found experts on the topic.

Patricia G. Devine is a known professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was the psychology department chair from 2009 to 2014. She received her PhD in social psychology from Ohio State University in 1986. She has since expressed interest in the relation between explicit and implicit prejudice and the processes that regulate the use of stereotypes. Patricia joins in the discussion by providing an experiment (published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) in which she conducted three studies that tested basic assumptions derived from a theoretical model based on the automatic and controlled processes involved in prejudice and stereotypes. The first model suggests that the stereotype is automatically activated in the presence of a member of the stereotyped group and that low-prejudice responses require controlled inhibition. In layman’s terms, when a person is confronted with a stereotyped grouped, their stereotyped responses are automatically activated and consciously controlled. The second study examines the effects of automatic stereotype activation on ambiguous stereotype-relevant behaviors represented by an unspecified person. This study is showing how people apply the assumed stereotype towards a person without fully knowing if it resonates with them. Lastly, study 3 examines the subject’s prejudice responses in a consciously directed thought-listing task. In this study, Patrici asked participants to write their thoughts about the racial group Blacks under anonymous conditions. Through this study, they were able to identify the prejudice responses of a subject to recognize if they were stereotyping. Through these studies, she examined how stereotypes and personal beliefs are involved in responses to stereotyped groups. This is a valid experiment to recognize what makes people tick in terms of acting on their prejudice towards others for it to be replicated. She makes the statement that “there’s strong evidence that stereotypes are well established in children’s memories before children develop the cognitive ability and flexibility to question or critically evaluate the stereotype’s validity or acceptability.” This then begs the question is the influence of racism starts when you’re younger and when you haven’t developed enough to form their own thoughts. Patricia’s motive in conducting multiple studies was to examine the mental aspect in how much you can control and what is automatic in applying stereotypes to races. She excels in applying the pressure point situation in which stereotypes were applied and in doing so she was able to find out which aspects of stereotypes were more automatic, and which were controllable and done consciously. This allows us to recognize that the racial prejudice that can be easily influenceable can be minimally automatic, while also being controlled. Devine concluded from her research that the act of prejudice is not the, “consequence of ordinary thought processes,” meaning that it is an act of will. You must willingly want to discriminate against other people and in doing so you allow the behavior to be accepted and right to follow. The studies help furthered the idea the act of prejudice is not automatic but generally controlled and the influence of new ideas/behavior is most likely stems from automatic stereotype activation.

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In an article titled, Vicarious moral licensing by, Maryam Kouchaki also cited by the abovementioned, Patricia G. Devine, discusses the effect of others’ prior non prejudiced behavior on an individual’s subsequent behavior. Maryam is an organizational psychologist who seeks to understand everyday moral encounters. She offers evidence that everyday moral encounters cannot be fully understood without a thorough consideration of the individuals’ psychological experience with them. She has a Ph.D., 2012, Organizational Behavior, University of Utah, and an M.B.A., 2005, Sharif University of Technology. Kouchaki’s methodology for expressing her claim was to include studies that were supported by a hypothesis. She conducted 5 studies in which she focused how prejudiced actions can be explained by your moral behavior and identity. Kouchaki validates her studies by including information from other experts like the abovementioned Patricia Devine. In doing so she is able to authenticate her work as credible and it is supported by many other people in the conversation. The article also highlights how one person’s ability to act prejudice can have an effect on another’s mindset. This article states that “other people’s prior moral behavior can provide individuals with credentials that can license subsequent morally questionable behavior.” (Kouchaki 2011) This shows that the moral behavior in the past, plays a vital role in the type of behavior you exhibit in the present. The “prejudice” behavior can be based off actions that have happened and can be influenced by others. Kouchaki closing remarks are that people can infer their moral self-concept by observing others’ chosen moral actions, thus, liberating them to engage in inconsistent behavior (morally questionable behavior). “Not only do individuals’ prior moral choices influence their subsequent moral behavior but so do the prior moral choices of people perceived as similar or closely related.” (Kouchaki 2011) The moral behavior of one’s past can be influenced by other moral actions. This author shows how others can influence the actions of an individual and the reasoning for the spread of racial prejudice amongst people who observe others to determine their behavior towards a race.

Lastly, with a mention of Dr. Kouchaki, a paper titled, “Are groups more or less than the sum of their members? The moderating role of individual identification “discusses the importance of differentiated identities for group function. The collection of R. Baumeister, S. Ainsworth and K. Vohs identify a “framework that divides the formation of work or task groups into two steps” (Baumeister, Ainsworth & Vohs 2016). The first step emphasizes shared common identity and promotes emotional bonds. In the other step, they emphasize, group members take differentiated roles that improve performance. In contrast to the 2 previous sources which focused on the influence individuals displayed onto one another, this piece discusses how you can be part of a group but still have individual identification. This relays the message on how people can have their personal ideas as individuals but are seen as a group or in this case a minority. The group goes on to discuss the relationship between being a single individual or a collective group. They touch on this idea of conformity in which they say that as a group there is increased pressure to conform to the group identity. They have also found research that confirmed that people who resist the tendency to conform to the group’s opinion can improve the informational performance of groups. There seem to be some gaps in their research also, in which they are not specific as to where they found their information from and downgrade their credibility. The work seems to have some hard-hitting point but without the right evidence, it is legitimate enough to be recognized as correct and truthful.

Overall the influence of others’ prejudice on individuals is prominent and thoroughly discussed among scholars in psychology. The author each have a different methodology to explain the realm of racial prejudice. However, the overlying message is that you can be easily influenced by one’s belief of a race and the psychology behind is vast as to the reason. Each expert discusses their viewpoint on the matter however it just raises more question like, does this problem only apply to racial prejudice? Is there a physical aspect that is being talked about? Will there be definite answer and then a solution to the issue?

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