The Effects of Prejudice Essay

The Effects of Prejudice Essay

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Evolutionary theory suggests that in order to prevent contact with harmful pathogens, people identify and avoid heuristic cues that are associated with disease (Schaller, 2011). Further, people who feel most vulnerable to disease tend to associate subjectively foreign out-groups with disease and act more negatively toward them (Faulkner, Schaller, Park & Duncan, 2004). The negative effects of prejudice are both physical and psychological: People who reported being subjected to prejudice also had greater amounts of visceral fat (Lewis, Kravitz, Janssen & Powell, 2011) and ambiguous racism decreased people’s performance in cognitive tasks (Salvatore & Shelton, 2007). Hence, it is of obvious benefit to society to reduce prejudice and alleviate these detrimental outcomes.

Combining this past research, Huang, Sedlovskaya, Ackerman and Bargh (2011) reported across three studies a significant correlation between modern health interventions, such as vaccination and handwashing, and reducing prejudice. Their studies, however, indicate that it is the perceived protection from disease which is important in reducing prejudice, which limits the extent that health interventions alone will impact prejudice. Further it will be argued that other factors, such as the prolific nature of disease and alternative causes of prejudice, limit how meaningful these findings are in realistically impacting on social prejudice. A reasonable alternative that will be discussed is that any threat or perceived harm, not solely disease-based, towards an in-group may produce xenophobic attitudes.

In study one Huang et al. (2011) examined the effects of vaccination status on reported racism. They reported that when confronted with disease, unvaccinated part...


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Lewis, T. T., Kravitz, H. M., Janssen, I. & Powell, L. H. (2011). Self-reported experiences of discrimination and visceral fat in middle-aged African American and Caucasian women. American Journal of Epidemiology, 173, 1223-1231. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/
Salvatore, J. & Shelton, J. N. (2007). Cognitive costs of exposure to racial prejudice. Psychological Science, 18, 810-815. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01984.x
Schaller, M. (2011). The behavioral immune system and the psychology of human sociology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 366, 3418-3426. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0029
Schaller, M., Park, J. H., & Mueller, A. (2003). Fear of the dark: Interactive effects of beliefs about danger and ambient darkness on ethnic stereotypes. Journal for Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 637-649. DOI: 10.1177/0146167203029005008


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