When prejudice occurs, stereotyping and discrimination may also result. In many cases, prejudices are based upon stereotypes. A stereotype is a simplified assumption about a group based on prior assumptions. Stereotypes can be both positive ("women are warm and nurturing") or negative ("teenagers are lazy"). Stereotypes can lead to faulty beliefs, but they can also result in both prejudice and discrimination.
According to psychologist Gordon Allport, prejudice and stereo types emerge in part as a result of normal human thinking. In order to make sense of the world around us, it is important to sort information into mental categories. "The human mind must think with the aid of categories," Allport explained. "Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibly avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it. " This process of categorization applies to the social world as well, as we sort people into mental groups based on factors such as age, sex and race.
However, researchers have found that while when it comes to categorizing information about people, we tend to minimize the differences between people within groups and exaggerate the differences between groups. In one classic experiment, participants were asked to judge the height of people shown in photographs. People in the experiment were also told that:
"In this booklet, the men and women are actually of equal height. We have taken care to match the heights of the men and women pictured. That is, for every woman of a particular height, somewhere in the booklet there is also a man of that same height. Therefore, in order to make as accurate a height judgment as possible, try to judge each photograph as an individual case; do not rely on the person's sex." In addition to these instructions, a $50 cash prize was offered to whoever made the most accurate judgments of height. Despite this, participants consistently rated the men as being a few inches taller than the...
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