Today, we all live in a very diverse world. When there is diversity there is usually prejudices. Prejudice can be defined as an attitude certain people have towards others who are in a separate group. Discrimination occurs when prejudiced actions are inflicted in a group of people. These prejudices and discriminations stem from erroneously held beliefs that one has about a group of people. These beliefs are known as stereotypes (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). One group of people that commonly gets denigrated or sympathized in our society are people with mental illnesses. People with mental illnesses sometimes do not get treated the same as typical people in our society because they are perceived as crazy, stupid, incapable, or all of the above. The reality is, sometimes people with mental disabilities are more capable of completing a job than a person without mental disabilities.
Recently, a new TV show came to the spotlight. The Good Doctor is about a young man on the Autism Spectrum who has a vast knowledge about anatomy. This young man is attempted to join the surgical unit at a very prestigious hospital. The hospital board formed a meeting in order to discuss whether the doctor would be a good fit in this specific hospital. Majority of the board believed that Dr. Shaun Murphy (the young man on the spectrum) was unfit to work in the hospital because of his disability. As this meeting about Dr. Shaun Murphy was occurring, the Good Doctor himself was saving the life of a young boy in an airport. A video of Dr. Murphy saving this child’s life went viral, eventually reaching the board meeting. After everyone on the hospital board watched the video, the board decided to give Dr. Murphy a chance despite his disability. Dr. Murphy’s mentor and biggest supporter, Dr. Schiff, explained that hiring Dr. Murphy will give all other people suffering from mental disabilities hope that they are capable of anything (Daly, 2017, episode 1).
Social Identity theory can be used to describe the conflict the arose in the TV show, The Good Doctor. In the meeting, the hospital board can be classified as the in-group. The in-group consists of people who share similar interests and homogenous personal identities. Personal identity are the ways in which a person describes themselves based off of personality traits and characteristics. Another aspect of social identity theory is known as social identity. Social identity are the ways a person defines themselves in relation to the group they are a part of (Schneider et. al, 2012). In the Good Doctor, the board classified themselves and the surgeons working in the hospital as as intelligent individuals who are capable of working in a hospital. The board had stereotypes about Dr. murphy because he was on the Autism spectrum. The board claimed he would be incapable of efficiently becoming a surgeon because of his disability.The board’s stereotypes and prejudices almost lead to the discrimination of Dr. Shaun Murphy, which would be rejecting his applicability of working in that hospital (Daly, 2017, episode 1).
The resolution the hospital board, Dr. Schiff, and Dr. Murphy came to by the end of this episode was a simple example of the contact hypothesis. The contact hypothesis occurs when an in-group becomes more accepting of an out-group member due to positive relations or contact (Schneider et. al, 2012). In the Good Doctor, the hospital board watched a video of Dr. Murphy saving a life in an emergency situation. This increased positive feelings towards Dr. Murphy because it discarded the erroneous beliefs that the Dr. was incapable of becoming an effective surgeon. At the end of the episode, Dr. Murphy joined the board meeting in person. The board simple asked him one question, “Why do you want to become a surgeon?” Dr. Shaun Murphy answered his question slowly but surely. Dr. Shaun Murphy explained that his brother and his bunny rabbit passed away from unpreventable reasons, so he wanted to save other people’s lives to prevent others from going through what he went through. This heartfelt answer touched the board members, and resulted in Dr. Murphy receiving an invitation to work in the hospital (Daly, 2017, episode 1). This was another example of positive contact because Dr. Murphy, as the out group member, penetrated through the walls of the ingroup through his personal statement and resulted in the in group accepting him.
Daly, L. (Director). (2017). The good doctor [Motion picture]. Sony TV.
Schneider, Frank W. Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles, SAGE Pub., 2012.