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Essay on Prejudice and the Social Sanctions against It within Our Society

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This essay is about prejudice and the social sanctions against it within our society. Prejudice is described as an attitude about a group, or a member of a group based on their membership of that group (Abrams D. , 2010). Our attitudes and behaviours within society is a combination of emotions, inclinations to put into action, and personal beliefs. Most prejudices are developed within childhood without even realising as a result of believing that a person is different from how we perceive ourselves (Myers, Social Psychology, 2014). This in turn causes us to behave in a discriminatory manner towards those that are perceived as different. This essay also looks at social categorisation, which is described as how, and individuals mind gathers like-minded people with similar personality try to interest. It will also look at stereotyping which is described as a fixed belief about a collective group of individuals (Myers, Social Psychology, 2014).

Here in Western Australia we are bound by the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA) this act promotes Equality of opportunity in Western Australia and to provide remedies in respect of discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, family responsibility or family status, race, religious or political conviction, impairment, age, or involving sexual or racial harassment or, in certain cases, on gender history grounds (Office, 1984).

Researchers have been trying to ascertain what the key points are in terms of why prejudice is so commonplace within current society. There is still a culture of racism; sexism and segregation between different classes; religious intolerance and just bullying are all forms of prejudice that we as a society need to still address (Abrams D. , 2010).

Given that segregation has been outlawed in a majority of countries and as different cultures start to interact on a more regular basis, that as time goes by prejudice should already be eradicated as theorised in The nature of prejudice (Allport). Especially if you are from Australia that after segregation was outlawed, that society would begin to accept indigenous persons. Allport’s theory was further expanded on in 2012 and referred to as the Contact Hypothesis, which is to say for example; if one is petrified of cockroaches. It is likely that by having a greater exposure to cockroaches, the less petrified one would be (Schneider, 2012).

In psychology when it comes to prejudice it must be understood that there are two main types; most people who think about prejudice think with their conscious mind as they find it easier to rationalise the way of thinking during different events such as, day to day interacting with people who come from different multicultural backgrounds (Whelan, 2018). This is also often associated with more aggressive forms of prejudice whether it be relating to racial, sexism, ageism or some other form of discrimination or outright bullying. This is also known as conscious bias and the one that is more common and therefore has the most educational awareness programs and legal sanctions against prejudice (Whelan, 2018). Conscious bias is perceiving individuals or communities from multicultural backgrounds to be a to their own mind and benefit. As individuals perceive their biases and beliefs to be well- founded. As a result, individuals rationalise their unjust treatment and cruelty to those from a multicultural background or those considered to be from a lower socio-economic class (Whelan, 2018).

Conscious bias examples are discrimination and hate speech as a result of direct thought as a result of this this behaviour can be regulated due to social norms individuals are more open to regulating this behaviour due to the sanctions against it. It is important to start teaching future generations about individual biases and prejudice in order to educate them in the hope to eradicate prejudice for good (Whelan, 2018). Research shows that bye reinforcing people as part of the same community such as; we are all Australian is useful in releasing any interracial negativity and biases, if done correctly following intergroup group connectedness it can increase trust and build a solid foundation of a multicultural society (Whelan, 2018).

The next main type of prejudice in psychology is referred to as unconscious bias or passive- aggressive prejudice, is when the subconscious takes over and we do things unintentionally which essentially makes it difficult to detect (Whelan, 2018). An unconscious bias is community characterisations about different multicultural groups and individuals. Individuals all have unconscious belief systems in place regarding other social communities; these unconscious ideas and group values are vastly more common than conscious form of bias (Whelan, 2018). Some examples relating to unconscious bias are normal everyday things that wouldn’t appear to be a form of bias including; gender qualities such as believing men are the protectors and breadwinners and the women are just there to support their partners and kids (Whelan, 2018). Our parental expectations that our sons and daughters are the way they are born which can be difficult in modern society and leads to unconscious bias towards transgender people. Other examples that can be attributed to unconscious bias can be related to employment in terms of the name listed on a curriculum vitae, in some cases people reading curriculum vitae usually tend to only select English sounding names for interview places and despite having equal or possibly greater education backgrounds they will often exclude people from different multicultural backgrounds. One last example of unconscious bias would be that when it comes to stem classes (science, technology, engineering & maths) men are considered to be better at these classes than women are considered to be regardless of similar backgrounds (Whelan, 2018).

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The Contact Hypothesis theory is just one such theory associated with prejudice the next most commonly referred to theory was more widely associated with Karl Marx, is also referred to as the Exploitation Theory. This is the main theory which is often used to rationalise the repeated categorisation of other groups who are deemed to be insignificant compared to one’s own social class. So called conflict theorists, try to enforce the different roles relating to both racial and ethnic hostilities to maintain their own groups perceived station of power and status within the community (Schaefer, 2015). Originally the Contact Hypothesis theory was developed by Oliver Cox (1942), his conflict theory showed prejudice against black people which by extension caused an even greater inequality amongst those who are deemed to be a lower socio-economic class (Schaefer, 2015).

The next theory can be directly related to the conflict theory and is usually refer to as the scapegoating theory which essentially means the instead of blaming an individual for a perceived or actual event, instead a group is deemed guilty of a transgression. One of the most common transgressions where a cultural group was blamed is during Nazi Germany, where Hitler killed all the European Jews during the Holocaust (Schaefer, 2015). Since this event there is still a real phenomenon of anti-Semitism, the scapegoating theory links indirectly to the previously mentioned conflict theory. Although this theory doesn’t particularly explain the reasons as to why prejudice still exists within modern society, most people would assume that prejudice would be across the board similar within all cultures however it varies greatly amongst individuals.

The last psychological theory on prejudice is referred to as the Normative Approach, this theory indicates that while one must consider personality traits of an individual when it comes to ideas about prejudice (Schaefer, 2015). The normative approach theory mainly looks at situational factors as deemed normal within society which can be either a positive or negative influence in terms of prejudice. Research has shown how community influences Individuals within a group to be tolerant or intolerant of those from a less superior class (Schaefer, 2015). As a result, communities tend to develop societal rules that decree items or people are to be considered desirable or taboo, ethnic and racial communities should be privileged or shunned. Sometimes this tolerance level can be a universal such as; when slavery was an extensive part of most cultures or in other cases it can be on a more individual scale such as sexism; where women have to compete with male counterparts for promotions and the gender pay gap issue, like in a prestigious law firm (Schaefer, 2015).

In society we often tend to invent labels for everything especially other individuals and as a result we neglect to allow individuals who go against our personal convictions. To a certain degree we let the media show us a supposedly accurate representation of the different racial, ethnic and religious groups in order to conform with our own belief system. One such example of this would be the portrayal of Muslims during the World Trade Centre attacks, there is however room for improvement in terms of eradicating prejudice (Schaefer, 2015). Although less common the media also shows other forms of stereotyping; after racial prejudice the next most common form stereotyping as depicted in the media would probably be sexism stating that one gender is more superior than the other, homophobia is also widely stigmatised in the media is it can be found in all facets of society (Schaefer, 2015). By the media supporting this gender and racial stereotyping it tends to stop the sympathising from the so-called dominant group of heterosexual people.

In Australia we are mostly seen as being a multicultural nation however not everyone agrees with that, prejudice and racism is still a considerable cause for concern within society and even appears to be an increasing issue (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017). As in other countries prejudice is rife in Australia and has been since Australia was founded in 1901 and has progressively got worse not only for indigenous Australian but for other immigrants (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2017).

There are many ways to reduce prejudice worldwide and in Australia some of these methods include educating ourselves. We can do this by building on the contact theory as developed by Oliver Cox; utilising the idea of cooperative learning, peer influences and by bringing in a more multicultural curriculum in schools by doing this we stand a greater chance of eradicating prejudice in all forms for future generations (Scottish Government, 2015). For older generations we can learn from contact with people of other cultures and using real case studies. During the 1990s there was a well-known study done called the Cross-Cultural Awareness program which was promoted as being an educational program aimed at reducing prejudice against indigenous Australians, due to the fact that this particular cultural group is often stereotyped, stigmatised and discriminated against and also to promote knowledge of the indigenous culture and history. However, there is no follow up on this study after the key factors indicated for revision (Scottish Government, 2015).

As Paluck and Green (2009), suggest by assessing changes to beliefs is a complex matter. For example; if an individual was to attend a cultural diversity class the objective is that they would be more culturally aware. However, whilst in some cases the objective would be achieved there would probably be a more significant number who’s attitudes towards culturally diverse people wouldn’t change due to the fact that most prejudices are ingrained in an individual since childhood (Paluck, 2009).

In conclusion, in this essay we have discussed the different forms of prejudice and the definitions relating to it. We also discussed the fact that prejudice and biases are formed in childhood through our diverse communities and if we intermingle with people from different multicultural backgrounds, we can educate ourselves and others to take the time to consider the different cultural aspects and belief systems of others. Once we have educated everyone, we may then be able to eradicate prejudice from the modern world.

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Essay on Prejudice and the Social Sanctions against It within Our Society. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Essay on Prejudice and the Social Sanctions against It within Our Society.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
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