Prejudice: Definition + Ways to Overcome It

Ever noticed how sometimes we judge a book by its cover? Just like that, our minds can make snap judgments about people. Let’s dive into the world of prejudice and explore why this happens!

Key Takeaways

  • Prejudice involves hostile attitudes towards certain groups based on social categories or classes.
  • The psychology of prejudice is complex, including cognitive and emotional processes influenced by social factors.
  • Challenging biases and stereotypes is crucial for overcoming prejudice and promoting social harmony.

What is Prejudice?

Prejudice refers to a preconceived opinion or judgment that is not based on reason or actual experience. It can be a feeling or attitude that one holds towards certain groups or individuals. Prejudice can lead to discrimination, which is the unfair treatment of people based on their identity.

It is normal to feel certain biases or make quick judgments based on appearances or first impressions. However, it is essential to recognize and challenge these biases to foster a more inclusive and accepting society.

Types of Prejudice

Racial Prejudice

Racial prejudice refers to discrimination and hostility based on the belief that one race is superior or inferior to another. This type of prejudice is based on stereotypes and generalizations about members of a particular race.

Sexual Orientation Prejudice

Sexual orientation prejudice, also known as homophobia or heterosexism, is the discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation, whether they identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

Gender Prejudice

Gender prejudice, also known as sexism, involves unfair treatment or negative attitudes toward someone based on their perceived gender. Examples include unequal pay for equal work, gender stereotypes, and objectification of women.

Religious Prejudice

Religious prejudice, also known as religious discrimination, involves the unfair treatment or hostility towards someone because of their religion or lack of religious beliefs. This type of prejudice can lead to social exclusion, discrimination in the workplace, and even acts of violence.

Age Prejudice

Age prejudice, also known as ageism, involves discrimination based on a person’s age, usually targeting either the elderly or the young. This type of prejudice might lead to negative stereotypes, social isolation, or even denial of employment opportunities.

Disability Prejudice

Disability prejudice involves discrimination against individuals with disabilities, whether they are physical, mental, or sensory impairments. This type of prejudice can result in social exclusion, limited opportunities, and discrimination in various aspects of life.

The Psychology Behind Prejudice

Cognitive Aspects of Prejudice

The cognitive aspect of prejudice involves the mental processes that contribute to forming biased judgments about others. These processes include:

  • Stereotyping: You may automatically categorize people based on their race, gender, or other attributes, leading to generalizations about their character or abilities.
  • Confirmation Bias: You might selectively pay attention to information that confirms your pre-existing beliefs, while ignoring or dismissing contradictory evidence.

Emotional Aspects of Prejudice

Emotions play a significant role in prejudiced behavior. Here are a few emotional aspects to consider:

  • Fear: Sometimes, your prejudice may stem from feeling threatened by an individual or group that is different from you.
  • Anger: You might become angry when someone challenges your values or beliefs, possibly causing you to react with prejudice.
  • Sympathy: Interestingly, empathy for one group might inadvertently lead to prejudice against another.

Social Factors Influencing Prejudice

Social Norms and Prejudice

You’re familiar with the idea of “fitting in,” right? Social norms dictate what is “acceptable” and “normal” in a society. When these norms lean towards stereotyping or bias, you might unknowingly adopt them. After all, you want to fit in.

Here’s the catch: Just because something is seen as “normal” doesn’t mean it’s right. Recognizing this distinction is your first step towards understanding and countering prejudice.

Social Group Influence on Prejudice

Picture this: You’re surrounded by friends, family, or coworkers who constantly express biased opinions. Over time, their beliefs might start to rub off on you. This influence is subtle but powerful. Groups, both large and small, can shape your perspectives and beliefs.

Always remember, it’s crucial to evaluate and question the beliefs and prejudices of the group you’re a part of. After all, blind conformity is never the answer.

Prejudice in Different Settings

Prejudice in Society

You see it on the streets, in the news, and perhaps even in your own community. Prejudice in society is as old as society itself.

  1. Media Stereotyping: When you turn on the TV, you might see characters of a particular race or gender acting in a stereotyped manner. This isn’t by accident; it’s the result of years of preconceived notions being played out in popular culture.
  2. Generalizations: Ever heard someone make a sweeping statement about a particular group of people? These generalizations are rooted in prejudice. You might have heard them at a dinner table or from friends.
  3. Implicit Bias: Sometimes, people hold unconscious beliefs about certain groups. You might not even realize you’re doing it. This can manifest in various ways, from the friends you choose to the way you react to strangers.

Prejudice in the Workplace

You’d think a professional setting would be immune, but prejudice can sneak in here too.

  1. Hiring Practices: Have you ever felt like you didn’t get a job because of your age, gender, race, or other personal characteristics? It’s possible that prejudice played a part.
  2. Promotion Bias: Ever seen someone get passed over for a promotion for no apparent reason? Behind the scenes, prejudice might be pulling the strings.
  3. Microaggressions: These are small, subtle, often unintentional acts of prejudice. Think of comments like “You’re so articulate for your age/race/gender!” They might seem harmless, but they carry a deeper message.

Prejudice in Law

It’s disheartening, but even the justice system isn’t exempt from prejudice.

  1. Racial Profiling: You’ve read about it, maybe even experienced it. When people are judged by their appearance rather than their actions, that’s prejudice in action.
  2. Bail and Sentencing Disparities: Ever wonder why people from different backgrounds get different sentences for the same crime? Prejudice might be lurking in the shadows.
  3. Laws Targeting Specific Groups: Sometimes, laws are passed that disproportionately affect one group over another. While they might seem neutral on the surface, a closer look reveals the hand of prejudice.

Ways to Overcome Prejudice

Educate Yourself

It’s simple: the less you know about someone or something, the easier it is to make unfounded assumptions. By educating yourself, you’re taking a proactive step towards understanding. Dive into books, attend seminars, or engage in open conversations. The more you know, the less room there is for prejudice.

Engage in Open Conversations

Sometimes, prejudices are deeply entrenched because of longstanding myths. You can break these down by talking openly. When you hear a stereotype or a biased comment, address it. Ask questions. Seek clarity. Remember, conversation is a bridge to understanding.


No one’s perfect. Everyone has biases, including you. The key is to recognize them and challenge them. By taking time to self-reflect, you ensure you’re not unknowingly perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

Promote Inclusivity

The more inclusive environments you create and support, the less space there is for prejudice. This isn’t just about diversity in terms of race or religion, but also in terms of thought, experience, and perspective. When diverse voices are heard and valued, prejudice has less room to thrive.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Before you make a judgment or lean into a prejudice, imagine being in the other person’s shoes. Understand their struggles, their joys, and their stories. By cultivating empathy, you dismantle barriers and diminish the power of prejudice.

Broaden Your Social Circle

It’s natural to gravitate towards what’s familiar, but when you intentionally branch out, you enrich your life. By interacting with a wider array of people, you break down the walls of “us” and “them” and replace them with understanding.

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Brenda Calisaan is a psychology graduate who strongly desires to impact society positively. She aspires to spread awareness and knowledge about mental health, its importance, and its impact on individuals and society.

She also has a passion for working with children and hopes to dedicate her career to positively impacting their lives.

Outside of work, Brenda is an avid traveler and enjoys exploring new experiences. She is also a music enthusiast and loves to listen to a variety of genres. When she's not on the road or working, Brenda can often be found watching interesting YouTube videos, such as Ted-Ed content.