Social Bias and Stereotypes

1177 words | 4 page(s)

Human nature results in the formation of official and unofficial groupings based on shared interest, cultures, race, religion, or any number of things. Human nature also fuels the normal idea and behavior in people to treat those not in their social groups in a differing manner, this is social bias. While social bias is often reflected in negative beliefs and behaviors, many of the bias are not intentional, while some are grounded in cognitive concepts such as prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. It is easier to identify and understand members of your own group, rather than others and as such preconceived ideas and beliefs can alter our behavior and treatment of those who are considered “outsiders”. Social bias is defined as prejudicial attitudes toward particular groups, races, sexes, or religions (Fiske, 2004). Social bias includes both the conscious and unconscious expression of these attitudes in writing, speaking, and everyday behavior.

Unfortunately, social bias is encountered in many cultures and religions across the world. Preconceived biases frequently occur in three forms that reflect the thoughts and beliefs of others, s, stereotypes, and discrimination (Fiske, 2004). Prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination has been engrained in society for centuries, and little can be done to change the mindset of those who hold firm to these notions (Hall, 2010).

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Prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination are all often grouped into a single category, but they are different with each concept having a varying focus and expressions. Biases is often performed by an individual or a group who cast unfounded, incorrect, or misleading judgment on another and refuse to seek or hear the truth in regards to their sometimes prejudice false information (Fiske, 2010). According to Fisk (2004), prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination are three forms of social bias that are category-based responses which are correlated with the behaviors and beliefs that are clearly defined negative and directed at individuals or groups (Fiske, 2004). Additionally, Fiske (2004) separates these three social bias concepts into three aspects, affective, cognitive, and behavioral.

“Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a social group” (McLeod, 2008). Prejudice is the affective form of social bias, in that it impacts the thoughts of an individual.
According to Myers (2005), Prejudice is the negative prejudgment of a group or an individual solely because of their membership in the group.

Stereotyping is an individual’s application of his own beliefs and expectations onto another individual or group without obtaining truthful information about the individual or group and is a cognitive process (Fiske, 2010). Often stereotypes are formed from familiar interactions or occurrences that are generalized as the behavior or tendencies of an entire group.

Discrimination is the act of denying rights, or privileges to an individual or group based on stereotyping or prejudices (Fiske, 2010). Discrimination is the actual act or reflection of inner thoughts and beliefs, making it the most blatant form of social bias. Discrimination is the behavioral form of social bias and like prejudice and stereotyping it is often based on negative beliefs about an individual or group (Fiske, 2004). Discrimination can take several forms to include verbal, nonverbal, aggressive, or passive (Myers, 2005).

While social bias and individual beliefs negatively, impact interactions and exchanges amongst varying group, it is often displayed in varying ways. Subtle and blatant bias explains the extent of the expression of preconceived social biases. Subtle bias is not usually displayed in a forceful manner (Srithatan & Gawronski, 2010). Subtle bias may not be immediately noticeable in a person’s behavior or demeanor, but it is reserved to their personal inner thoughts and beliefs

According to Myers (2005) subtle bias may include the over exaggeration of differences between varying groups, and the overall lack of or limited acceptance, admiration and affection of members of another group. Many social psychologists refer to subtle bias as the “modern bias” (Myers, 2005). For instance, modern day prejudicial acts are usually, indirect or displayed in subtle, but often not verbally stated preference and identification to that which is similar, familiar, and comfortable to individuals, which is often reserved to those within their own social group (Myers, 2005). Additionally, according to Fiske (2004), subtle bias is a response that is unconscious and unintentional.

Blatant bias is displayed in an overt fashion that emphasis the displeasure or bias of an individual against an individual or a group (Sritharan & Gawronski, 2010). According to Fiske (2010), blatant biases are promoted by the social motivation of belonging, and the need to fit in or confirm to their group promotes the outwards display of emotion to garnish acceptance and confirmation of their place within a group. Blatant bias is considered the “old-fashioned” form of social bias and can be verbal, such as racially slurs; physical attacks such as hate crimes, segregation, and avoidance (Fiske, 2004; Myers, 2005).

Social bias, impacts several people, the victim, the initiator and any who may bear witness to the bias. Those who are victims of prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, have been found to cope with the instances in varying manners. Some victims may suffer from low self-esteem, depression, mental anguish, and fuel additional social biases (Fiske, 2004; Plant & Devine, 2009). Others use instances of social biases as an internal motivator, in the face of adversity they propel forward in an effort to prove the negative stereotypes and prejudiced individuals incorrect (Fisk, 2010).

Additionally, in modern ages, those who are openly discriminatory, racists, or voice negative opinion on stereotypes may suffer socially and professionally. Many speak out against openly discriminatory professionals, companies, and organizations as such they become a social outcast on a larger level and they may be frowned upon by people within their own group for brining negativity and social criticism upon them (Myers, 2005).

Everyone at some point may come experience a form of social bias in their lifetime, be it in the form of racism, discrimination, or subtle avoidance and members of other groups receiving preferential treatment over another. However, strategies to overcome social bias that are enforced legally and socially by all, but they alone are not enough. Given the cognitive, unconscious and unintentional perspectives of prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination, internal motivation for change and a self-conscious effort is required by those who will to change themselves and those around them.

Educational tools, knowledge, contact with other groups, and the structured emergence in a multi-cultural environment can downcast ignorance and promote a genuine understanding for those who are different (Plant & Devine, 2009). Education and acceptance allows for communities to come together and bridge the barriers that segregate us based on perceived negative notions of social bias.

  • Fiske, S. T. (2004). Social beings. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Fiske, S.T. (2010). Social beings: Core motives in Social Psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Hall, G.N. (2010). Multicultural psychology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
  • McLeod, S. A. (2008). Prejudice and Discrimination in Psychology. Retrieved from
  • Myers, D. (2005). Social psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  • Plant, E., & Devine, P. (2009). The active control of prejudice: Unpacking the intentions guiding control efforts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3): 640-52.
  • Sritharan, R., & Gawronski, B. (2010). Changing implicit and explicit prejudice: Insights from the associative-propositional evaluation model. Social Psychology, 41(3): 113-23.

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