Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why is prejudice hard to change?

Rather than ignore the facts we may as well accept the truth; we all have been prejudice in our lifetime.

As we discussed in class prejudice is hard to change because:

1. We are unaware of our own prejudices.

2. We must want to understand.

3. We must desire change.

4. We are socially conditioned.

5. We are scared and need support.

Allport (1954) proposed a hypothesis: Prejudice is reduced if people meet under conditions of equal status.

1. Equal status

2. Cooperatively pursuing common goals

3. Meet long enough to see “others” as common humanity

4. Sanctioned by an institution that is accepted by contact situation

5. Friendships are potential

I applied these factors to my service learning experience as a tutor at the Franklin Learning Center, which is an adult education program. The Majority of the students with whom I work come from Islamic backgrounds. We have learned that the above conditions can be hard to achieve because of power and resource differentials between dominant and minority groups. Research has shown that if we interact with people different from ourselves we can broaden our ideas and gain more experience. When doing so prejudices can be reduced. For the past month I have done 24 hours of service learning, and I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned to the above conditions. So far, I have met conditions 2-5. The first assumptions I had about each student came from negative stereotypes that I associated with his or her culture group. After meeting for the past month those assumptions have been replaced by more positive perceptions of the individual. Students and I work toward achieving the same goals, whether it’s preparing for the citizenship or GED test. Although, the “equal status” condition is not met, AllPort’s hypothesis has proven to be true when applying it to my service learning experience. Not meeting the “equal status” condition supports the idea that the theory tends to work even when the contact conditions are not all met.

-Alicia Fowler

Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.


  1. I believe that Allport’s hypothesis rings true on multiple occasions, the Franklin Learning Center being one of them. It is hopeful to hear that despite inequality of status, prejudice can be overcome based on other components. The power of working together to achieve goals indeed reduces poverty as prior hesitation or judgments are forced to go by the wayside. Also, the power of friendship and time spent together humanizes people that once may have been viewed as merely within a certain category rather than as an individual. I think another important component is the desire to want to change and understand. Regardless of initial prejudice or judgment, the desire to move beyond these thoughts that so often we feel as though we can’t control along with the actions we take or don’t take is what matters. While numerous factors provoke prejudice or judgment, the way he handle and dismiss those thoughts can help mold us into more open and affirming human beings. In terms of overcoming prejudice despite an inequality of status, my hope is that by stretching oneself to be accepting of people or a more regular basis, status will start to mean less and less. I tend to wonder whether those people who have established lots of relationships with those of different backgrounds are able to more quickly overcome barriers of prejudice.
    -Hannah MacDougall

  2. I really agree with this. I am doing my service learning at peace house, a place where the homeless can come into eat, talk to volunteers, and discuss and debate on current events. I to held some prejudices when i went it, based on what i have heard and seen before. But, now that i have completed my 40 hours my prospective has totally changed, and i have learned a great deal more. I believe i do have a more open prospective and a better understanding of how to meet different people then me with an open mind. I agree with you that it is hard, and it does take time, but learning to do this is beneficial not only to being a social worker but to becoming a better person as well.