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prejudice, unsubstantiated prejudgment of an individual or group, favorable or unfavorable in character, tending to action in a consonant direction. The hostility that prejudice can engender and the discrimination to which it may lead on the part of a dominant population toward an ethnic group, gender, religious or linguistic minority have caused great human suffering throughout history. Some researchers attribute prejudice to deep-rooted “fear of the stranger,” while others cite religious or nationalist chauvinism, and fear of economic competition. Most, however, agree that prejudice is learned and can be reduced when members of different communities work together toward the realization of a common goal or when groups intermarry. Since prejudice and discrimination each contribute to the origin and growth of the other, prejudice can be reduced by removing discrimination, and a change in discriminatory institutions usually leads to a change in attitudes.


See G. Allport, the Nature of Prejudice (1979); R. Williams, Mutual Accommodation (1979); T. Pettigrew, Sociology of Race Relations (1980).

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any opinion or ATTITUDE which is unjustified by the facts. The term tends to have a negative connotation both because a prejudiced person's opinions are unfounded and often not formed through first-hand experience, and also because the attitudes described are usually negative in relation to the object they are held about. However, one can hold a positive but prejudiced attitude. Prejudice has been related to personality type (see AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY), and also to group membership. As with all attitudes, prejudices are the result of social learning within families and other social groups where opportunities for modelling and strong pressures towards conformity exist. See also STEREOTYPE, ETHNOCENTRISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an opinion that precedes reason and is adopted uncritically, without reflection. The Russian term for “prejudice” is also applied to irrational components of social and individual consciousness, including superstitions associated with religion.

A prejudice is an unfavorable social attitude toward some phenomenon. Not based on critically tested experience, stereotyped and emotionally colored, it is nevertheless highly stable and not very susceptible to change in the face of rational information. Ethnic and racial prejudices are especially persistent. Prejudices also exist in other spheres of social psychology.

Like any sociopsychological stereotype, ethnic prejudice has dual roots—socioeconomic and psychological. Ethnic prejudices and feelings of racial and national enmity are rooted in the objective conditions of social life, which place people in hostile relations with each other. Distrust and suspicion of the “outsider” were already entrenched in the ethnocentrism of primitive thought, which by necessity was limited to the framework of one’s own clan and tribe. “We” was defined through correlation and opposition with some other group— “them.” With the development of exchange and intertribal contact, people’s notions about other ethnic communities became more complex, but the content and emotional coloration of these notions always reflected the specific history of the interrelations of the respective groups. Neutral or friendly relations engendered neutral or positive stereotypes. A dependent, subordinate group with a lower level of civilization would draw a condescending and contemptuous attitude and would be represented with traits of childlike naïvete and intellectual inferiority (the typical image of the “native” in 19th century colonial folklore). A rival group, conversely, would be perceived as hostile and dangerous; its members would be represented with traits of aggressiveness, craftiness, and moral unreliability. The appropriate stereotypes would be solidly entrenched in the mass consciousness and sanctified by religion.

In an antagonistic class society, ethnic prejudices not only grow spontaneously out of the depths of mass psychology as specific, albeit distorted, forms of symbolization of social conflicts, but they are also consciously disseminated and propagated by reactionary classes in order to disunite the working people and divert their attention from fundamental social problems. Hence the essential prerequisites for eliminating all national and racial prejudices are the destruction of classes and of exploitation of man by man and wide-scale educational work in a socialist society.

However, prejudice is not only a social but also a psychological phenomenon. A stereotype that is one and the same in terms of objective content may in one instance be simply a means of adaptation to a social situation—for example, racist attitudes in a society where racial inequality is the norm—while in another it is a defense mechanism for an individual who projects onto an “outsider” his own, unrecognized, qualities. A psychological interpretation of national and other prejudices that claims to replace a sociohistorical and class-oriented analysis is reactionary and untenable. However, the study of the dialectics of cognitive, emotional, and volitional components of prejudice or the relationship between social attitude and real behavior is of great importance for developing effective methods of upbringing.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


without prejudice Law without dismissing or detracting from an existing right or claim
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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