Psychological Perspectives on Prejudice

Part of the Ethnic and Intercommunity Conflict Series book series (EAI)


An enduring feature of ethnic conflict lies in the speed with which unimaginable fury can sometimes be raised. It is as if there is a deep well of emotional forces just waiting to be unleashed under propitious circumstances. Whether this is an overly simplistic picture or not, it is perhaps why some people look to psychology for part of the explanation for ethnic conflict. This chapter will examine some of the general themes that emerge from psychological work on prejudice by focusing on a number of key moments in research and theorising. The first part of the chapter will examine the way in which psychologists examined people’s methods for perceiving and making sense of the world, including their consideration of some of the cognitive processes involved in perception, such as categorisation and stereotyping. The next main section of the chapter will examine two of the main theories of prejudice that have developed within social psychology, based on research in the US in the 1950s, and in Europe in the 1980s. In the final part of the chapter we will examine some of the themes to emerge from a later body of work where some psychologists have focused on the role of language in the social construction of reality. To close the chapter we will briefly point to some of the implications that arise from the discussion as a whole. The reason for examining these themes from social psychology is the potential insight they provide to the inter-relationships between people, particularly those which seem to foment prejudice and discrimination. All too often these are characteristics of divided societies.


Social Comparison Perceptual Information Psychological Perspective Social Identity Theory Sheer Volume 
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Copyright information

© Tony Gallagher 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen’s University BelfastUK

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