Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination
- Rhiannon N. TurnerRhiannon N. TurnerQueen's University Belfast, Department of Psychology
Scholars have developed a plethora of approaches to reducing prejudice and discrimination, many of which have been successfully applied in schools, workplaces, and community settings. Research on intergroup contact suggests that contact between members of different groups, particularly when that contact is warm and positive (for example through friendships) reduces negative emotional reactions (e.g., anxiety) and promotes positive emotions (e.g., empathy), results in more positive attitudes toward members of that group. One might expect that, in an increasingly connected world characterized by global mobility and diversity, higher levels of contact would be associated with a significant lessening of prejudice and discrimination. However, critics have pointed out that changes in attitudes at the individual level do not necessarily translate into reduced prejudice and discrimination at a societal level. Moreover, not everyone has the opportunity to engage in meaningful contact with members of other groups, and even when they do, these opportunities are not always capitalized on. One solution to lack of opportunities for contact is to capitalize on “indirect contact.” These are interventions based on the principles of contact, but which do not involve a face-to-face encounter. Extended contact, which refers to knowing in-group members who have out-group friends, and vicarious contact, which involves learning about the positive contact experiences of our fellow group members, for example via the media, online intergroup contact, and imagining intergroup contact, have each been shown to promote more positive intergroup attitudes. Another way to reduce prejudice and discrimination is to change the way people categorize social groups. When people perceive members of their own group and another group to belong to the same overarching group—that is, they hold a common in-group identity—there is evidence of reduced intergroup bias. However, when our group membership is important to us, this may constitute a threat to our identity, and lead to a reactive increase in bias in order to reassert the distinctiveness of our group. One solution to this is to encourage a dual identity, whereby an individual holds both the original group membership and a common in-group identity that encompasses both groups simultaneously. Alternatively, given the many and varied group memberships that individuals hold, social categories become less useful as a way of categorizing people. There is also evidence that taking a multicultural approach, where differences are acknowledged, rather than a color-blind approach, where differences are ignored, is less likely to result in prejudice and discrimination. Finally, there is evidence that teaching people about other groups, and about the biases they hold but perhaps are not aware of, can help to reduce prejudice and discrimination.