is an all-too-common part of social life
, but most social psychologist
s believe that it can be reduced - it is not inevitable. Here are some techniques that seem to work:
Teaching Children Acceptance Instead of Bigotry
If children are taught from an early age to respect all groups - including ones very different from their own - prejudice can be nipped in the bud, so to speak.
Increased Intergroup Contact - or Merely Knowledge That it Occurs
Recent findings indicate that if people merely know that friendly contacts occur between members of their own group and members of various outgroups (groups in which we do not belong), their prejudice towards these groups can be sharply reduced.
Once individuals mentally include people they once excluded from their ingroup (groups in which we belong) within it, prejudice toward them may disappear. Reminding people that they are part of large groups - for instance, that they are all Americans, Canadians, or even human beings - can help accomplish this kind of recategorization.
Stereotypes suggest that all persons belonging to specific social groups are alike - that share the same characteristics. Such beliefs can be weakened if people are encouraged to think about others as individuals, not simply as members of social groups. Also, some evidence suggests that affirmative action programs may actually encourage positive perceptions of the persons who benefit from them, and so serve to counter prejudice by undermining stereotypes.