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Laura Jennings

Subject Sociology » Social Psychology, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Prejudice is the judging of a person or idea, without prior knowledge of the person or idea, on the basis of some perceived group membership. Prejudice can be negative, as in the case of racist or sexist ideology, or positive, as in the case of a preference for a particular ethnic food, and can thus either help or harm a person so judged. Some writers, in defining prejudice, stress an incorrect or irrational component; others maintain that it is incorrect to do so because prejudice is often rooted in a quite rational self- or group interest. Prejudice is often used synonymously with such terms as discrimination and racism. Social scientists began to show great interest in prejudice in the early to mid-twentieth century when anti-immigrant sentiment was widespread and often erupted in violence. Later concerns over fascism and the Holocaust fed scientific interest in prejudice. Psychologist Gordon Allport, in his seminal work The Nature of Prejudice (1954), described prejudice as the result of a normal – albeit emotion-laden and faulty – psychological process of categorizing people into in-groups and out-groups. In-groups are considered desirable and in possession of positive attributes, while out-groups are seen as possessing negative or undesirable attributes and, thus, as appropriate targets for abuse. Allport noted the role of stereotyping in prejudice and discussed the acquisition ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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