Multiple Paths to Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination
Stuart Oskamp1 Claremont Graduate University
Prejudice is one of the most-studied areas in all of social science. However, most of this study has been directed at understanding the nature, causes, and consequences of prejudice. Though reducing prejudice has been the implicit goal of many researchers, relatively little research has been directed specifically at the crucial topic of how to reduce prejudice and discrimination in our societies. That is "where the rubber hits the road" -- where psychological theory and research findings must combine to create effective programs for improving social conditions. The vital importance of this topic is emphasized in this quotation:
[Though they may have had] a possible evolutionary advantage, prejudiced intergroup attitudes -- with their potential for periodic eruption in overt intergroup conflict -- have now become an extremely serious threat to the continued survival of human society and civilization. ( Duckitt, 1992, p. 250)
We are all aware of horrendous examples of nations that have erupted in open warfare between rival ethnic or religious groups, such as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Northern Ireland. On a smaller scale, the United States also still suffers every year from hundreds of vicious hate crimes, including killings of African Americans, gays, and other minorities. Despite these appalling cases, we should keep in mind that remarkable positive changes have occurred in our society and others, in the direction of greater harmony and reduced prejudice. Examples of this kind of progress include the marked change in cultural values and norms affecting intergroup relations in the United States since World War II and the more recent transformation to a more equalitarian political system that has replaced apartheid in the Union of South Africa.