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Friday, November 28, 2014

Smart People With Bias and "Including Others in Self"

Research has consistently shown people refuse to admit their biases. Howard J. Ross, author of Everyday Bias, cited a Dartmouth College survey where misinformed voters were presented with factual information that contradicted their political biases.

For example, those who were disappointed with President Obama's economic record and believed he hadn't added any jobs during his presidency were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year that included a rising line indicating about a million jobs had been added.

"They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down, or stayed about the same," Ross wrote. "Many, looking straight at the graph, said 'down.'"

And, would you believe that Ross says it's even more difficult to get smart people to admit bias.

"The smarter we are, the more self-confident we are, and the more successful we are, the less likely we're going to question our own thinking," Ross says.

(John Blake. "The new threat: 'Racism without racists.'" CNN. November 27, 2014)

The Difference Between Prejudice and Discrimination

There is a difference between prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is " an unjustified or incorrect attitude (usually negative) towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a social group.
For example, a person may hold prejudiced views towards a certain race or gender etc. (e.g. sexist).
On the other hand, discrimination is "the behavior or actions, usually negative, towards an individual or group of people," especially on the basis of sex/race/social class.

What is the difference between the two? A prejudiced person may not act on their attitude.  Therefore, someone can be prejudiced towards a certain group but not discriminate against them.  Also, prejudice includes all three components of an attitude (affective, behavioral and affective), whereas discrimination just involves behavior.

(Saul McLeod. "Prejudice and Discrimination." 2008)

Facing Bias as Stereotyping

Stereotyping goes hand in hand with prejudice. The term stereotype as used in social science was first introduced by the journalist Walter Lippman in 1922. Previously the term had been used in the printing business.

When people stereotype humans, they attribute a series of traits to them based on the one trait that signals their membership in a particular group. Common contemporary stereotypes are that Asians are hardworking and studious, Hispanics are macho, and librarians are introverts.

Stereotypes limit and disregard people's individuality. They also lend themselves to negative and derogatory assumptions. When that happens the stereotype blends into prejudice.

It is important to reduce social prejudice. In the 1950's, Gordon Allport introduced the intergroup-contact hypothesis. In this view, intergroup contact under positive conditions can reduce social prejudice.

 The necessary conditions include the following

*  Cooperation towards shared goals, 
*  Equal status between groups, and  
*  Support of local authorities and cultural norms.

Considerable research since then has supported these ideas. In a 2003 review, Stephen Wright and Donald Taylor also noted the effectiveness of identification with a super-ordinate group. In other words, different groups can come together as part of one overarching group, for example as part of one community or of a common humanity.

(Lisa J. Cohen, Ph.D. "The Psychology of Prejudice and Racism."  
Psychology Today.

Of course, cross-group friendships reduce stereotypes and social prejudice through positive emotional experiences with members of different groups. Having close friends from different groups is especially effective in this regard.

Why? Consider the following reasons: 

*  It is nearly impossible to hold onto a simplistic, negative stereotype of someone you know well. 

*  Secondly, a close relationship promotes identification with the other person and of the groups they belong to. This is referred to as "including the other in the self," a notion introduced by Stephen Wright, Arthur Aron and colleagues.

"Including the Other in the Self"

Steven Wright has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology, and he is a professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University. His work includes investigation of the conditions that lead disadvantaged group members to accept their disadvantaged position, to take individual action to improve their personal position, or to engage instead in collective action to alter the conditions of the disadvantaged group as a whole.

The model of "including the other in the self" finds when entering a close relationship, a person should perceive that the self and other should begin to overlap by including aspects of the other in the self.

More specifically, when the other makes his or her resources available, this leads to the belief that these resources are now included in the self.

Most importantly, these new resources lead to greater inclusion 
 of the other in the self by also incorporating 
the other’s perspectives and identities in the self.

(L.R. Tropp, A.M. Stout, C. Boatswain, S.C. Wright and T.F. Pettigrew. "Trust and acceptance in response to reference to group membership: Minority and majority perspectives on cross-group interactions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36. 2006) 

Barriers to Self-Expansion at the Intergroup Level

Wright and others acknowledge those who self-expand in one area may put ourselves at risk of losing aspects of the self in another area.

Consequently, people may be fearful of creating 
a close relationship with an outgroup member 
as this may trigger animosity from original ingroup members. 

Often individuals must balance between potential benefits of including the outgroup in the self with the potential loss of ingroup friends and the associated resources. If the self-loss outweighs the self-expansion, it is possible for a decrease in perceived self-efficacy.

A second barrier for self-expansion is the notion for an overabundance of self-expansion in a short period of time. The accumulation of new resources and perspectives in our self-concept leads to a need for self-integration (i.e. combining different resources, identities and perspectives into single overarching self-concept). An excessive amount of self-expansion without proper self-integration can be quite stressful (e.g. moving to a new city, or starting a new job).

It has been suggested that when a person is socially stable, self-expansion via an outgroup member is most likely to be successful. Consequently, the likelihood for cross-group contact and the inclusion of the outgroup in the self is dependent on the degree of self-expansion in other domains.

The Bottom Line

Many intelligent people hold their stubborn bias against factual research to the contrary and strong concessions.

It is imperative to fight bias and stereotyping that feeds prejudice and discrimination. All of us, but especially those prone to stereotyping and bias must attempt to find the "other" (those they target with prejudice) into their "selves" (personal understandings).

This entails actions that allow the biased to share needed resources with others while making close friendships and also finding overlapping positive aspects of the "other's" personality and humanity. Only then can people expand their views and incorporate once-misunderstood perspectives and identities in their selves.

How unfortunate that many people fear the risk of "including the other in the self." They often don't want to fight the pressures from their in-groups to be seen as someone with a different stance who can find common ground with other groups. They lack the fortitude to face animosity from their in-group friends if they would interact, and thus they remain bias as a whole toward the unknown outsiders. Bingo, Bango -- stereotyping views solidify.

Others make good efforts at cross-group friendships and simply find themselves too stressed out with this overwhelming, excessive self-expansion. These folks try to expand: they make new out-group connections, but they stumble as they fail to integrate understandings of important outgroup disadvantages. They are the people who have some outgroup connections (friends) but who do not assimilate the outgroup's distinct views and understandings.

"Oh yeah, I'm not prejudice," white people love to profess. I have lots of black acquaintances." These humans may not discriminate because their actions are not discriminatory; however, I do believe many who claim this do practice bias and stereotyping, prejudice behaviors which lend support to discrimination. They insist the days of civil rights injustices are over when, in fact, they have taken a sharp turn away from blatant, outward discrimination towards subtle prejudice.

Socially stable people can end prejudice and discrimination. They can do this by incorporating the outgroup in themselves, and this requires deep friendships and even deeper understandings of foreign beliefs. Isn't it ironic that the old cliche of "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" actually conducive to making important new outgroup acquaintances and accepting them into the brotherhood of man?

It is impossible to be your best self by blinding clinging to ingroup thoughts and behaviors. We tend to automatically disbelieve anything that goes against our limited ingroup knowledge. It is human nature, but human nature at its most rigid.

We must resist the temptation to close our minds to cries of injustice just because we think we know better. We must also give close consideration to them, the opposition, and make concerted efforts to climb inside their skin and face their troubles with the invigorated good hope for correcting basic wrongs.

"From the viewpoint of absolute truth, what we feel and experience in our ordinary daily life is all delusion. Of all the various delusions, the sense of discrimination between oneself and others is the worst form, as it creates nothing but unpleasantness." 

 --Dalai Lama

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