Homogeneity Breeds Prejudice

Growing up, I was constantly being introduced to different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. I remember being fascinated at the vast amount of cultural traditions and nuances, and I craved to meet new people, people with different stories. In Damascus, Syria, attending an International High School quenched my thirst for meeting different people, as the student making up the school were mostly children of diplomats who were stationed in Damascus. I had friends from all four corners of the world – from Buenos Aires, to Ghana, to Amsterdam. For me it felt natural being in a diverse environment, and I wouldn’t know any other way of interacting.

That was until I move to Yerevan, Armenia around four years ago. During the first few months, it was both comforting yet strange to be in a country where everyone is of the same ethnicity, of the same nationality, and of the same religion – everyone is Armenian, following the Apostolic church. It first felt comforting because I felt like I was ‘home’, being in my own country with ‘my’ people. But it was also strange at the same time because I was not used to the homogeneity. It was when I enrolled at the American University of Armenia that I began to notice the prejudice that existed here.

There was only one international student in the freshman class, and he was from India. I will not disclose any names for the protection of this individual’s privacy. I first was oblivious to it, since I had never witnessed first hand people exhibited prejudice towards another person. Slowly but surely, I noticed the whispers when this student walked into a class; I noticed how everyone else created a bubble around if as if he were contagious. This student was picked on, laughed at, and publicly humiliated on many occasions. I was ashamed and appalled at my peers’ behavior, and the first thing I did was blame it on their characters – believing that they were a bunch of disrespectful bullies, who are also immature for exhibiting this type of behavior – ultimately falling prey to the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error underlies that we find it easier to explain other people’s behavior in terms of personal dispositions, rather than thinking about situational factors that could have played in a role in their actions (Schneider et al., 2012). The more people I saw exhibiting prejudiced behavior towards another, the more people I ended up attributing being disrespectful and horrible to.

It was not until much later that year on a day that I was reminiscing my high school days when I had an epiphany. I was introduced to diverse environment growing, but Armenians who were born and raised in Armenia here never had. There is little to no diversity in Armenia, so how could these people ever be accustomed to a diverse environment when they have never been in one? Their entire lives has been underlined by the similar-to-me effect – since everyone around them is similar to them, they have been accustomed to perceiving others who are like themselves more favorably than others (Schneider et al., 2012).

This is fortunately taking a turn for the better in Armenia. Tourism has seen a boost in recent years, which means locals are being introduced more and more to individuals of different ethnicities and backgrounds. A lot of citizens of neighboring countries have also come to Armenia to start business, and there has been a huge influx of Syrian Armenians (due to the civil unrest in Syria). I am noticing how the dynamic has changed between local Armenians and an individual who is not from here – and it is definitely a great aspect to witness. Gordon Allport introduced the contact hypothesis, which “assumes that positive contact with members of an out-group could decrease negative stereotyping of the out-group by the in-group and lead to improved intergroup relations” (pg. 343, Schneider et al., 2012. I definitely see a link between this hypothesis and what I have experienced throughout my four years here by observing in-groups (Armenians) contact with out-groups. The more that Armenians had contact with anybody who is different than they are, the more they are not only developing acceptance, but also realizing the great outcomes of meeting diverse individuals.

Thank you for reading,

Hilda Yacoubian



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

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  1. Tarek Al-hashimi

    Hi Hilda,

    I really enjoyed your post and how you discussed one of the factors that can lead to the development of prejudice. As we know, in-groups (Schneider et. al, 2002) are comprised of members that might share similar viewpoints or backgrounds. In the case of different cultures, in-groups can be a way for members of society to relate to one another and embrace their shared beliefs. This can be a wonderful thing, and it is what leads to cultures having rich folklore, music, food dishes, arts, sports teams etc.

    The only concern, as you noted, with this is that just as group members will embrace their own members and culture, they will also tend to disagree with other cultures and people outside of the group, deemed belonging to the out-group. You talked about your Armenian background and the negative attitude that your peers had in regards to interacting with the Indian student. I have encountered a similar example growing up in a suburb of Pennsylvania. I attended a religious Sunday School for Muslims in a local mosque. The majority of the students were of Arabic descent, and it made the students who were Arabic become very fond of each other. The problem, again, was that students of Pakistani and Indian descent felt left out and looked down on. I believe that it is essential that we fight these types of negative prejudices.

    As you mentioned, Allport’s contact hypothesis provides an avenue for people of different backgrounds to make progress in interacting with one another. I believe that a crucial factor in promoting diversity and acceptance is diversity in educational and workplace settings. If people are forced to associate with members of other groups than their own personal in-groups, then they will decrease their out-group prejudice by way of increased exposure. Educating our society about diversity and the beauty of other cultures is the preferred way to reduce negative prejudice.

    Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

  2. Hilda,
    What an interesting and very appropriate topic. I too feel that on a much smaller scale have witnessed the issue of prejudice when it comes to a military community (such as where I live in the US) especially between military and civilian families. But why is it (whether large scale or small scale) that people cannot seem to get along with people who are ‘different’. I have to admit that I too have been apart of the in-group being prejudice towards the out-group. At the time I did not realize this is what was happening but upon further reflection I can now see that.
    What I find most interesting about your post is that homogeneity breeds prejudice. In a sense, I do agree with this. Though from an applied social psychology standpoint you can believe and understand that the ‘social learning theory’ (Schneider et al., 2012) is easily applied and understood in the context of prejudice. The social learning theory states that learned behaviors from groups can amplify or even confirm actions within a group due to the acceptance of actions of peers. This roles directly into the in-group/out-group theory that you mentioned. Being a part of a group is extremely important from all stand points (evolutionary, psychological, social, etc.). It is ingrained in the human brain that being part of a group (in or out) is important for survival.
    Michigan State University published in article in relation to a study done by Melissa M. McDonald, Carlos David Navarrete, Mark Van Vugt back in 2012. This study presents the idea that the brain hardwired on a biological setting to gravitate towards the same and lash out against different (in very basic terms). Basically the article says that fitting in is most important for all creatures so we have a preference to where we stand socially (even in animals). Looking back in your college classroom setting with the one Indian boy, you can easily see where the group as a whole feels more comfortable sticking together with what they know and do not feel threatened by.
    Something that I feel needs to be addressed in regards to prejudice being ingrained but also seen in unison with in/out group theory is a study done by Pettigrew in 1959. He studied a interracial group of mine workers who when below ground got along very well and had no issues of prejudice. In this case everyone down in the mine (no matter the age and race) were part of the in-group. But when coming out of the mine and returning to their highly prejudice and segregated town, the once friendly minors were now unfriendly and back to being prejudice toward one another. They have now returned to their in group/out group settings. I find this to be extremely important and interesting. So in a way we are biologically set to be prejudice but during times of need or even in specific situations we will join the group that is most like us and comforts us even if this is not our ‘normal’ group.

    Michigan State University. (2012, January 24). It’s evolution: Nature of prejudice, aggression different for men and women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124113053.htm

    Pettigrew, T. F. (1959). Regional differences in anti-Negro prejudice. Journal of abnormal psychology, 59(1), 28.

    Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

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