Tag Archives: Prejudice

“Me a bigot? No way, I hate them!”

After being caught calling one of his own Labour supporters a bigot when he thought he was off microphone, Gordon Brown has been apologizing and recanting his statement at every opportunity. His reference to Gillian Duffy as “a sort of bigoted woman” came after her comments about Eastern European immigration, something many in Britain feel is a growing problem. Of course, the news has focused on the aftermath of Brown’s gaffe and his attempts to apologize to Duffy. Meanwhile, Duffy seemed completely shocked that anything she said would have implied she was prejudiced. What the news has not focused on is whether or not she really is a bigot. Few people would agree they were in fact a bigot, despite their prejudicial views, because nobody ever thinks they are one.

Past research (using implicit measures and physiological responses) has shown that most people are prejudiced to some extent. But, most people, even those with extreme prejudices, deny such attitudes. According to recent research highlighted in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this may be because exposure to representations of prejudice in culture promotes the self-belief that individuals are not prejudiced. In a series of experiments, the authors exposed American participants to bigot stereotypes (through either priming or more explicit media representations) and found that those participants exposed rated themselves as less prejudiced than those who were not exposed beforehand. The authors suggest that this is due to cues of prejudice providing targets for downward social comparison. So, if exposure to bigot cues can lead people to believe they are less bigoted, then perhaps all the campaign focus on anti-immigration and the recent surge in support for racist parties like the BNP will lead other British people to think they are less bigoted than they actually are.

Read more: But I’m No Bigot: How Prejudiced White Americans Maintain Unprejudiced Self-Image

Read more: The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism


The Look of Young Hollywood

This month Vanity Fair magazine released their Young Hollywood issue, featuring celebrities that they proclaim are the new wave in Hollywood. However, a quick glance at the cover reveals that their selections seem to be particularly homogenous: all of the picks are attractive, thin, white, and female. Undoubtedly some of the recognition is deserved – the issue features actresses from Oscar nominated films (Anna Kendrick) and incredibly popular movie franchises (Kristen Stewart). But notably missing are minority actresses such as Gabourey Sidibe, who is an Oscar nominee for her starring role in the film Precious, and Zoe Saldana, who was widely acclaimed for her roles in Star Trek and Avatar.

The so-called “white-washing” of the Vanity Fair cover may be due to a number of factors. One possible reason is the selections may simply reflect the lack of diversity that has been present in Hollywood for decades. Another possible reason may be the “halo effect”.  Particularly, as has been seen in the impression formation literature, attractive individuals are often attributed with a number of other positive qualities (i.e., warmth, competence, intelligence). Thus, it might be the case that celebrities such as Sidibe and Saldana, who do not meet the traditional Hollywood standards of beauty, are not appropriately recognized for their talent while actresses who do meet these standards are praised before they’ve actually had a chance to prove themselves.

What is particularly surprising is that past issues of Vanity Fair have featured a more diverse set of actors, including minorities and a mix of men and women. It has only been in the past few years that those recognized have begun to look more and more similar. It remains to be seen whether the magazine, and Hollywood, will continue this trend into the next decade.

USA Today: Vanity Fair criticized for the lack of diversity.

Fiske, S. T. (2000). Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination at the seam between the centuries. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Kruglanski, A. W., & Ajzen, I. (1983). Bias and error in human judgment. European Journal of Social Psychology.

A late apology: What’s wrong with being gay?

homosexual-gayThousands of people signed to call for a posthumous government apology to the computer pioneer, Alan Turing, for the unfair treatment he received for being gay fifty-seven years after his death. Alan Turing was most famous for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during WWII, helping to create the Bombe that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. However, after his coming out of closet as a gay in 1952, Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency. Even worse, he was given experimental chemical castration as a “treatment” and his security privileges were removed, which led to his unemployment. As a result of this “appalling” treatment, Turing killed himself two years later.

Although sexual prejudice remains widespread in the world, attitudes toward lesbians and gay men have become somewhat more accepting in recent years. At the same time, a growing body of sociological and psychological studies deal with the attitudes of heterosexuals toward homosexual behavior. Studies show that one important determinant of attitudes toward lesbians and gay men has been identified in personality variables such as authoritarianism, religiosity, and sex stereotypes. A further important factor is the national or cultural context as shown by the results of international surveys. For example, based on an international survey about attitudes toward homosexuality, the highest tolerance score was found for The Netherlands and the lowest for the Philippines and Chile (Kelley, 2001). Furthermore, psychological research also show that media has significant influence on people’s attitude toward gay and lesbians (Levian et al, 2006).

While more and more people believe homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, some still violently object. The struggle for homosexual people to obtain visibility and representation in society is perhaps best embodied in the slogan that was popularized by the Queer Nation group in the 1990s, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”.

square-eyePM apology after Turing petition (BBC NEWS)

 

square-eyeLevina, M, Waldo, C.R., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2006). The Effects of Visual Media on Heterosexuals’ Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians.

‘Thinking outside the Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’

Ich bin Brüno!Brüno, the latest work by British comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen, has just achieved the highest-grossing opening weekend for an 18-certificate (i.e. adult-rated) film in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

This ‘mockumentary’ revolves around the reactions of various celebrities and members of the public to Baron-Cohen’s portrayal of the eponymous flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista. Since those involved believed they were dealing with a genuine rather than fictional character, their responses to his outrageously exaggerated portrayal of stereotypical homosexuality provide a satirical comment on the prejudice and hypocrisy present within a supposedly enlightened modern society.

Extreme reactions provoked by the filming led to Baron-Cohen being both threatened with assault and arrested multiple times, as well as facing subsequent legal action. This mirrors the response to his previous controversial film of the same format, in which he played ‘Kazhakhstani’ Borat. Not only did this similarly result in legal action, but the ensuing furore culminated in an international diplomatic incident.

Whilst such films may claim to provide a revealing insight into homophobia, anti-semitism, and the like, they also raise uncomfortable questions for the audience themselves. For example, it is debatable as to whether they are truly viewed by all cinema-goers as a sophisticated piece of social commentary, or whether they simply allow the ‘politically correct’ an opportunity to laugh at otherwise unacceptable stereotypes.

In terms of their technical approach, many of the humorous scenarios featured within these films echo the ‘breach studies’ of ethnomethodologist Garfinkel, which examined the responses of unsuspecting participants to deliberate violations of social norms.

In a further psychological link, Sacha Baron-Cohen is the cousin of Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge.

(And in case you were wondering, ‘Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung’ is German for ‘speed-limit’!)

Square-eyeBrüno’s official MySpace page

Square-eyeFilm review from the Guardian

Square-eye£1.99 - smallSmith, J. R. & Louis, W. R. (2009). Group Norms and the Attitude–Behaviour Relationship

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Appearance Matters

Kelis_perfect_smileWhat advice would a tourist board give to the local community when the tourist numbers drop? Smile! The Paris tourist board concluded that appearance matters. The tourist board proceeded to request that the residents of Paris smile.  After conducting a travelers survey it was found that among the high cost of travel, tourists experience included the perception of unpleasantness.  The tourist board concluded that the impressions people form about Parisians affect the overall tourist economy.

However, asking the locals to smile is not enough. When visiting Paris expect to be greeted by specialists known as “smile ambassadors”. On certain days you may even experience roller skaters gather to form a smile.

The story featured in the Reuters section, Oddly enough, may not be as odd as it is presented to be. Social Psychologists, Leslie A. Zebrowitz and Joann M. Montepare, 2008, explain why first impressions start with looking at a persons face and how people make judgments about others. A safe conclusion is that smiling will give the best impression, tourists or not.

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Read more: Reuters article on Paris smile campaign

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$1.99Zebrowits, L.A. & Montepare, J.M (2008) Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters

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