Archive for the ‘prejudice’ tag

Social perception   no comments

Posted at 8:20 am in Psychology

(Note: I am posting this in advance to compensate for the fact that I will be attending a 2-day conference later this week and may not be able to contribute to the blog according to the normal schedule. In other words, I have done double reading this week and I am posting this one week in advance.)

Social perception starts off with very simple ideas. To start with, these theoretical model says people perceive the world with categorised ideas, which is known as schema. These schemas include categories for people, self, events, and roles. These schemas are fairly self-explanatory. For example, person schemas contain all the abstract conceptual models of personality trades or person prototypes that allows a person to categorise and make conclusions from past experience of interacting with other people who are in this category. A typical statement will be, ‘ so you are a farmer, I have met a farmer before and he was like these are like that ’.

Regarding self-schemas, is how we look at ourselves, our past experience, and how we relate to the world around us. Event schemas is concerned with the sequential organisation of events in everyday activities. These would include anticipating events, setting aims and objectives, and making plans. Finally, role schemas are concerned with behaviour and traits of people with specific rule positions in society.

Schemas and stereotype and prejudice

This is an interesting concept. If fundamentally the way we process and understand the world is by categorisation and the use of schemas as suggested, then generalisation is unavoidable. For example, we may have a role schema for a senior medical consultant, or we may have a role schema for a young teenager. Each of these roles would have different characteristics and personalities, and likely as these characters are mentioned, each and everyone of us would have formed a picture of what we think these characters would look, dress, and behave. Under this understanding, stereotyping is both normal and necessary.

However, stereotyping is generally thought of negatively. For example, racism is a form of stereotyping. Discrimination of any kind has an element of stereotyping. Commonly, schoolchildren are taught not to judge a book by its cover so to speak. This creates a necessary conflict between theoretical models, human behaviour and generally excepted moral norms. The question is, does this mean we have to natural tendency to discriminate?

Fortunately, this is not always the case. It is argued that categorising in itself does not automatically mean discrimination. It is largely dependent on and the attitude of the individual towards members of the category. In other words, does it make any difference whether people are categorised according to age, gender or nationality? People are being put into categories all the time. In most cases, categorisation has not caused any problems. However, problems arise when unfair or even aggressive attitude is shown towards a particular group.

Take skin colour for an example. In a country where both the black and white mix well and see no distinction between themselves, skin colour categorisation has no problem. However, in countries where the blacks are seen as born to be slaves, categorisation becomes a problem. Or in a company where all the women are considered less capable and dedicated than their male colleagues, categorisation becomes a problem. Therefore, it is argued that attitudes is the determining factor.

Moving on

I am thoroughly intrigued by the idea of schemas and perception and attitudes. I will be following this up and see what I can find about formation of attitudes.

Written by Mandy Lo on November 9th, 2011

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