Lay Beliefs and Understandings: Why Prejudice to One Person is Truth to Another

O’Connor, S. (Australian National University), Platow, M. J. (Australian National University)

Prejudice pervades across socio-cultural domains, making it a common topic of interest among both academics and lay-people. Despite this interest, however, the definition of prejudice is still debated. Lack of a clear definition of prejudice impairs efforts to understand and reduce prejudice, posing problems in both theoretical and practical settings. The current paper proposes a different approach to understanding prejudice. Rather than examining prejudice itself, this paper considers the processes that affect people’s prejudice perceptions, which can in turn inform understandings of prejudice. Three variables were posited to affect perceptions of prejudice in the context of national social identity: the presence of threat to the in-group, the perceived in-group prototypicality of the in-group member expressing a potentially prejudiced comment, and the target of the potentially prejudiced attitude. Results showed that the targeted group had the strongest influence on perceptions of prejudice, although perceived in-group prototypicality of the speaker and in-group threat also played a role. Together, these findings speak to the importance of group processes not just in the expression of prejudice, but in determining what prejudice is in the first place. Future efforts to reduce prejudice should consider group-based interventions in addition to individual approaches.

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Understanding Prejudice Symposium