Race Prejudice and Discrimination: Readings in Intergroup Relations in the United States

By Arnold M. Rose | Go to book overview
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48. A Personality Type Associated with Prejudice *

Jerome Himelhoch

[ A number of studies of prejudice during the past decade have followed clues from psychiatry and clinical psychology and have sought a specific syndrome of personality traits, arising out of a specific set of childhood experiences, as the source of prejudice. Hartley's discovery that prejudice against one minority group was generally accompanied by prejudice against all other groups (including nonexistant "foreign" groups), and his research method of comparing extreme groups of known prejudiced and known nonprejudiced persons on a large number of personality traits, set the pattern of research for over a decade. In the following article from Commentary magazine, Jerome Himelhoch does a superb job of summarizing these researches. It should be understood, however, that the article was written before some of the major researches were complete, and that many of the basic criticisms of the whole approach had not yet been formulated. ]

In digging down to the roots of prejudice, social scientists have long been dissatisfied with the conception of the individual as a bundle of separate likes and dislikes. It is fairly common knowledge that if a person is anti-Jewish or anti-Negro, he is usually both. Indeed, experience indicates, such people hate "other races" in general, and are often political reactionaries to boot.

Common sense has often been wrong. But Gardner Murphy and Rensis Likert in their extensive study of the relationships between the different attitudes held by college students, Public Opinion and the Individual ( Harper 1938) proved fairly decisively what had been suspected: anti-Jewish, anti-Negro, and other anti-minority prejudices generally ran together and both were found predominantly in persons who were conservative or reactionary on domestic and international issues. Tolerance, conversely, went together with liberal and radical attitudes, and with dissatisfaction with the status quo in American culture generally.

More crucial for the study of prejudice than its simple presence and absence, many social scientists consequently felt, was the way it was bound up with a total personality. What did it imply about the individual's other attitudes, his general outlook and behavior? What apparent role or purpose did prejudice play in his life? The focus of the study of prejudice shifted from its horizontal distribu

From "Is There a Bigot Personality?" Commentary, 3 ( March, 1947), 277-84. Copyright 1947 by Commentary. Reprinted by permission of Commentary and the author.


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