Prejudice: Prejudice refers to evaluations or affective reactions to groups.

The primary difference between prejudice and stereotypes is that stereotypes refer to beliefs or thoughts about a group whereas prejudice refers to feelings about a group. You can think about stereotypes reflecting what is in people's "minds" and prejudice reflecting what is in people's "hearts."

Thus, while stereotypes come in the form of beliefs and expectations about groups, prejudice is more likely to come in the form of feelings towards a group.

Even with this distinction, there are many similarities. It is often the case that stereotypes and prejudices influence each other.

image of correlation between stereotypes and prejudices

Additionally, like a stereotype, a prejudice need not be inaccurate (i.e., unjustified) in order to be a prejudice. A prejudice can also be positive, negative, or a mixture of positive and negative reactions. Prejudices need not be applied to all group members to be a prejudice. Prejudices can be culturally or individually endorsed and explicitly or implicitly endorsed. The following will address key features of prejudice.

  1. Prejudice can influence stereotypes.
  2. Stereotypes can justify prejudice.
  3. Prejudice can be positive, negative, or a mixture of both.
  4. Prejudice, like stereotypes, can be implicitly or explicitly held.

1. Prejudice can influence stereotypes.

If a person dislikes a group (i.e., prejudice), then it is likely that the person's beliefs (i.e., stereotypes) about the group will also be negative. The converse is also true. If the feelings are positive, it is likely that the beliefs will also be positive.

As an example, if a person does not like African Americans they may be more likely to associate any number of negative attributes, such as hostility, criminality, or laziness, with being African American. In contrast, if the person likes the group then the person might associate positive attributes with African Americans, such as athleticism, creativity, or artistic talent. In both cases the prejudice leads to a stereotype but the evaluative content of the stereotype differs based on whether the prejudice is positive or negative.

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2. Stereotypes can justify prejudice.

The above relationship is a correlation and the relationship also goes the other way. Specifically, if a person's beliefs about a group are negative then the person is likely to have negative feelings towards the group. Conversely, when a person's beliefs are positive, the person is more likely to have positive feelings towards the group.

For instance, some people hold the stereotyped belief that overweight people lack self-control (stereotype) and this leads them to dislike (prejudice) the group. In contrast, others hold the stereotyped belief that Asians work hard (stereotype) and this leads them to admire (prejudice) the group.

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3. Prejudice can be positive, negative, or a mixture of both

Negative Prejudice: Negative prejudice is the most common form of prejudice that people consider.

An example of a negative prejudice would be members of a particular race (e.g., White people) or religion (e.g., Protestant) not liking or feeling threatened by people from a different race (e.g., Black people) or religion (e.g., Muslim). It does not matter whether people have a justification for their evaluations; the tendency to dislike a group or feel threatened by a group is a negative prejudice.

Positive Prejudice: When a person has positive reactions to and feelings about a group we call it a positive prejudice. This doesn't mean that the prejudice is "positive" in the sense that it should be strived for. In reality, positive prejudice can be a problem when favoring one group leads to disadvantaging another (i.e., discrimination). An example of positive prejudice is that people tend to evaluate the groups that they belong to (ingroups) more positively than groups they do not belong to (outgroups). They do not necessarily evaluate these other groups negatively; they may have neutral or even positive evaluations. But the critical point is that they evaluate their own group more favorably.

For instance, Penn State students may perceive Ohio State students positively, but they perceive fellow Penn State students more positively than they perceive Ohio State students.

Ambivalent Prejudice: Some positive prejudices have a negative side to them. Indeed a more accurate way to describe these prejudices is that they are ambivalent rather than positive (Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). They only appear positive because the negative side is not revealed or is not as obvious as the positive side. Ambivalent prejudices characterize evaluations of many different groups.

For example, some people have ambivalent reactions to Asians because they see them as intelligent and hardworking but simultaneously consider them to be unsociable. This type of ambivalence is associated with envy directed toward group. As another example, some people tend to have ambivalent reactions to the elderly for opposite reasons. They consider them to be warm and nice but do not think that they are particularly intelligent or capable workers. This type of ambivalence is associated with pity.

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4. Prejudice, like stereotypes, can be implicitly or explicitly held.

Recall that categorization results in both stereotyping and prejudice. Thus, just like stereotypes, categorization can result in automatic activation of attitudes and evaluations. These automatic or implicitly activated prejudices may or may not match a person's explicit attitudes and evaluations about groups. Moreover, like stereotypes, a primary source of implicit prejudice is culture.

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