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Prejudice and discrimination have been prevalent throughout human history.Prejudice has to do with the inflexible and irrational attitudes and opinions held by members of one group about another, while discrimination refers to behaviors directed against another group.A major role in the structure of a stereotype belongs to its emotional charge, which clearly indicates to what is acceptable and unacceptable in relation to any object.
The significance of prejudices and stereotypes as an illusory, fantastic explanation of reality consists in the fact that they indirectly contribute to the preservation of social inequality and inhibit progressive change.
Stereotypes mean extremely stable and limited understanding of a social object or situation by which people are guided in their behavior without a second thought (Myers, 2012; Feenstra, 2013).
Social scientists have also identified some common social factors that may contribute to the presence of prejudice and discrimination: To date, solutions to prejudice that emphasize change at the individual level have not been successful.
In contrast, research sadly shows that even unprejudiced people can, under specific conditions of war or economic competition, become highly prejudiced against their perceived “enemies.” Neither have attempts at desegregation in schools been successful.
According to Inzlicht and Schmader (2011), the specificity of this approach lies in the unconscious division of people into “us” and “them” with ingroup experiences perceived as idealized and endowed with pculiarities in a positive way (autostereotype), while outgroups are endowed with negative assessments (heterostereotype).
As a result, stereotypes form a simplified and highly superficial understanding of the social reality phenomena.
In particular, they can express a sense of one’s Self and the desire to seek affectation from the society; defend self-concept from anxiety caused by uncertainty about one’s own safety or internal conflict; as well as support group interests, values, and social status.
Given the latter, in our opinion, one of the most important origins of prejudice and stereotypes is social inequality.
The largest scale attempt to destroy this group of people occurred during World War II, when millions of Jews were exterminated in German concentration camps in the name of Nazi ideals of “racial purity.” The story of the attempted genocide, or systematic killing, of the Jews—as well as many other examples of discrimination and oppression throughout human history—has led sociologists to examine and comment upon issues of race and ethnicity.
Sociologists and psychologists hold that some of the emotionality in prejudice stems from subconscious attitudes that cause a person to ward off feelings of inadequacy by projecting them onto a target group.