Causes of Prejudice

There is no single explanation for prejudice; rather, a variety of factors interact to produce it. According to psychologist Gordon Allport, stereotypes and bias can sometimes develop from regular human thought. Sorting information into mental categories is essential for understanding the world around us. Allport wrote in his book The Nature of Prejudice that "the human mind must think with the aid of categories." "Once established, categories serve as the foundation for typical prejudging.

Meaning of Prejudice

Prejudice is a social sickness that persists from generation to generation. Prejudice is a noun that comes from the Latin word prejudium, which also means prejudging. It involves making a judgment or adopting an attitude in advance. Prior to coming into contact with the object or stimulus on which the judgment is based, a judgment is made. A bias is described as a collection of stereotypes, myths, and tales in which a label or symbol is used to categorize, describe, or identify a person or group taken as a whole.

Causes of Prejudice

Even though it is a phenomenon that affects all cultures, prejudice still appears to be a problem today, as evidenced by documented history. The question of how such a large number of individuals can have such prejudice, especially against members of certain social groupings and outgroups, now arises.

  • Sociological Determinants − Antisemitism typically has a positive link with socioeconomic level. However, there is no statistically significant link between socioeconomic level and anti-black prejudice. The most frequent finding is that those with a low socioeconomic level are more likely to exhibit negative attitudes about people of color.

  • Psychological Determinants − Recent research has suggested that personality characteristics can influence prejudice. The relationship between personality and prejudice is clear from three key psychological theories of prejudice, including frustration, aggressiveness, authoritarianism, personality, and belief congruence.

    • Studies demonstrating that more prejudiced people have a stronger tendency to displace hostility than unprejudiced people lend support to the frustration-aggression hypothesis of prejudice. This psychodynamic perspective also maintains that people with prejudice are more likely to become frustrated.

    • Numerous studies have also shown the connection between ambiguity intolerance, anxiety, and personality traits like insecurity.

  • Psycho-Dynamic Causes − According to the psychodynamic theory, prejudice is caused by impairments in an individual's level of psychological functioning rather than how prejudiced persons receive and process information. Such methods attempt to pinpoint the psychological tensions and maladjustments that lie beneath an individual's overt manifestations of prejudice using Freud's idea of psychoanalysis.

  • Personality and Motivational Determinants − Through the frustration, aggressiveness, or scapegoat theory, some psychologists have attempted to link motivational and psychological traits to the causes of prejudice. It is believed that people who consistently encounter free-floating animosity are more prone to becoming prejudiced. Aggressive acts are frequently the result of pent-up irritation with a variety of fundamental and very important requirements. This anger transforms into prejudice when it targets a certain group. People may direct their animosity against a minority group since it is a socially acceptable substitute when they are frustrated in some way. Prejudice can also result from group rivalry and the simple fact that certain members of another group are different. The majority of social psychologists concur that the frustration aggression sequence, which reflects the motivational roots of all prejudice, may be used to explain all instances of racial prejudice.

  • Cultural Determinants − Every culture has particular attitudes, prejudices, stereotypes, and beliefs about other cultures. Therefore, prejudices are aspects of cultural legacy. According to studies, prejudice that exists in one culture often affects that culture's offspring. According to sociologists and anthropologists, factors such as growing urbanization, society's complexity, population density, and employment competitiveness all contribute in different ways to the rise of prejudice against minority groups. Prejudices also arise as a result of linguistic, cultural, and lifestyle differences, such as those between Hindus and Christians, Hindus and Muslims, Whites and Blacks, Americans and Jews, etc

Features of Prejudice

Prejudice produces misinterpretations of all kinds and harmful gaps among people, groups, nations, and nationalities. It is the cause of the Cold War, jealousy, and disputes between individuals, societies, and countries. The emergence of entrenched prejudices impedes the overall development of civilization. History reveals that due to long-standing prejudices, a country’s talent, capacity, and physical resources have not been fully utilized.

The quality of civilized human life has been ruined by people's irrational prejudices towards one another. Prejudice primarily serves a negative purpose by causing social distance and friction. Prejudice fuels jealousy and social conflict, which prey on a civilization's peace, wealth, and contentment.

Methods of Reducing Prejudice

Prejudices essentially influence everyone and pose severe issues in both personal and social life. They also lead to unneeded tensions, annoyance, arrogance, friction, and other negative effects. Therefore, minimizing prejudice and eradicating its detrimental effects are crucial undertakings.

The murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany shows the unfavorable effects of prejudice. It may be the most overt case of discrimination in recent memory. Some prejudices pose a genuine social threat that can result in conflict and struggle between political ideologies, socioeconomic classes, racial and religious groupings, and political parties.

The following methods, which have been developed by various social scientists, help lessen prejudice.

  • To minimize prejudice, it is necessary to integrate knowledge, instruction, and promotion from the school level up through to the general public.

  • When attempts are made to educate the uninformed and satisfy emotional needs at the same time by promoting and improving intergroup contact, understanding, and harmony, propaganda can be most effective in eradicating prejudice.

  • Reducing unemployment is possible by eliminating segregation and discrimination in work, housing, and public services, as these are serious risks for causing resentment and fostering the spread of prejudice.


Based on a person's perceived membership in a group, prejudice can be an adverse sensation. The term is frequently used to describe a preconceived (typically negative) assessment or categorization of another person based on that person's perceived personal characteristics, including political affiliation, sex, gender, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, culture, complexion, beauty, height, and body weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Define the term Sexual discrimination?

Ans. The "direction of one's sexual attention toward associates of the same, opposite, or both sexes" is known as sexual orientation. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other non-binary people are not exempt from discrimination or misconceptions from the dominant group, like the majority of minority groups.

Q2. What do you mean by Hostile prejudice?

Ans. Hatred for persons who are of a different race, religion, ideology, country, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity is manifested as hostile prejudice. Anyone who disobeys strict dress codes, cultural or moral values, or political or religious ideas is vulnerable to aggressive racism.

Q3. What is Benevolent prejudice?

Ans. Benevolent prejudice is a seemingly positive bias that manifests in favorable attitudes and feelings but is really linked to hostile biases or maintains the lower status of the people it affects in society.

Updated on: 11-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started