Feb 26 2009

Prejudice and Bi-Directional Influences

Published by at 7:54 am under psychology

In my psychology classes we talk about bi-directional influences. For many years it has been understood that a social group will influence the behavior of individuals. Say a kid moves to a new school, and in the school the other kids are unkind to the boy. The boy is more likely to avoid others, maybe even cower in the corner, whatnot. That is one direction of influence.

More recently psychologists have focused on how a person’s attributes and behavior can influence their treatment by a group. Now take a boy who tends to habitually avoid and cower, and place him in a new school. Guess what, the other kids are more likely to be unkind towards him. Just as a group influences the individual, so too does an individual influence the group. To some degree.

News about research into prejudice published last summer bore this headline -

Expecting To Be Treated With Prejudice May Be Self-fulfilling Prophecy, Study Suggests

The final graph reads -

“We’ve always known that stereotyping by dominant groups can negatively impact communications between groups,” Inzlicht said. “This study shows it’s also important to consider how the expectations and perceptions of marginalized groups can impact relations. Both sides play a crucial role.”

That’s a dead-on example of bi-directional influence.

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