Jul 20

We Need More Interracial Contact

When we speak about race, you’ll find that most Americans agree that people of all races and ethnicities should be treated equally and with respect. However, personal experiences and news reports show us that race and ethnicity continues to be a problem and it affects how people are treated and how we all interact with each other on a daily basis. Most of us are aware that racial prejudice has a major impact on our lives and on our community. However, prejudice alone does not fully account for all racial dynamics, including occurrences where people of color may experience different treatment from white people. Therefore, we must realize the impact of racial anxiety (the discomfort people feel in anticipation of or during interracial interactions).

Most of us are concerned about how we may be perceived when we are communicating with others who come from different racial groups or ethnicities, and this can make us feel unsure about how to act. In the subject of race, this concern may be particularly severe, as people of color worry that they will fall victim to racial bias and white people worry that their words or actions will be misconstrued or assumed to be racist. This anxiety very often comes from lack of experience in interacting or being around other racial groups, this leads us to develop cultural stereotypes or distorted perceptions about what other groups are like.

Racial anxiety can be interpreted into behaviors that may seem to be bias, for example, the following are all examples of symptoms of racial anxiety:

  • maintaining less eye contact
  • keeping a physical distance
  • smiling less
  • using an aggressive or less friendly verbal tone, or even
  • avoiding all interactions with people from other races altogether

All these behaviors can have major repercussions for perpetuating racial injustices, for example, a white teacher to appear to be engaging less with students color due to awkward body language, or by actually engaging less with students of color. Also, white employers conducting shorter interviews with non-white applicants, or patients of a certain race being less trusting of doctors from a different race. In addition, avoidance and distancing behaviors can also be due to racial prejudice, and people of different race may interpret these behaviors to be coming from racial prejudice, instead of interpreting them as a result of anxiety about interacting with other racial groups.

However, fortunately, racial anxiety is something that can be changed. This would require us to reach beyond our segregated friendship circles or communities, and develop meaningful relationships with people of other races, this has been proven by psychological research (Tropp, 2011). The more we do, the more we can:

  • develop positive attitudes/empathy with people of other races
  • gain confidence about navigating cross race interactions in the future, and
  • alleviate our anxieties about cross race interactions

Positive experiences with people from other races can also help to lower the impact of negative cross racial encounters and help to make people more resilient when they engage in stressful interactions in the future. Most importantly, the advantage of cross race contact may not occur right away, one brief meeting between strangers or acquaintances can induce anxiety, especially for those with a brief history of interracial experiences. People usually become more comfortable with one another through repeated interactions across racial lines that grow closer over time. Even among people that show high levels of racial bias, physiological signs of stress can decrease through repeated interracial interactions, which can in turn cause future interracial experiences to be more positive in nature.

The circumstances in which people from different races come into contact matter. Reduced prejudice and racial anxiety happens most often when people from different races work together as equals towards a common goal, institutional support that endorses this kind of equal status also helps a great deal. Some examples of how these conditions can facilitate familiarity, positive changes and mutual respect in interracial attitudes are integrated sports teams and cooperative learning strategies. However, such favorable conditions can’t always be guaranteed across different situations. We may use these additional strategies to help create a common sense of identity and increase the potential for members from different groups to become friends, we can do this by establishing norms that promote interaction and empathy between groups and encourage respect for group differences.

However, given the fact that most of our communities and social circles remain segregated, it can be difficult to achieve interracial contact. Racial anxiety is usually a byproduct of racially similar environments, which render cross race interaction less likely and increase the changes that it will be less positive if it does occur. In such cases like these, indirect forms of contact, such as observing positive interracial interactions, or knowing that members of your racial group have friends and/or acquaintances in other racial groups, can help to reduce anxiety, promote more positive expectation for future interracial interactions, and create positive shifts in attitude.

The most important thing is to continue to reduce the impact of racial bias and prejudice, and address the structural and institutional conditions that perpetuate our country’s history of racial discrimination. While engaging in these efforts, we must also realize that addressing our racial anxiety is critical if we hope to achieve long-term goals in removing racialized barriers to belonging, opportunity, and inclusion.

We can use intergroup contact techniques to reduce racial anxiety and promote positive interracial relationships as an important complement to other anti-discrimination efforts. We can all benefit from moving past the confines of our group boundaries and into a broader more open circle of friendships, relationships, and colleagues.


Pettigrew, Thomas & Tropp, L.R.. (2012). When groups meet: The dynamics of intergroup contact. When Groups Meet: The Dynamics of Intergroup Contact. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from 1-310. 10.4324/9780203826461.

Tropp, L. R., & Mallett, R. K. (Eds.). (2011). Moving beyond prejudice reduction: Pathways to positive intergroup relations. American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1037/12319-000




Feb 19

But she’s not MY mother!

He gently picks up the elderly woman who has fallen on the ice, careful not to squeeze her arm too tightly.  He notices that she is limping and he helps her to a bench where he wraps her coat tighter around her frail body.  Tears fall from her eyes at the pain she feels from her hip that she hopes is not broken.  He gently wipes the tears from her wrinkled cheeks.  He would do this for his mother, his daughter, his wife, even his neighbor.  Maybe someone else in his town, maybe.  Maybe a stranger… if he had time.  Someone from another ethnic group?  Less likely.

We as humans are capable of such tenderness, such care and empathy for others.  We feel their pain, we ease burdens, we love.  We give of ourselves, we provide for our children even if it means we have less, some of us would even die for those we love.  But where does empathy end… and apathy begin… and lead to callousness…and even violence?

How can this same man hold a rifle in battle, kill women and children in foreign countries?  How can he disregard their pain?  The cries of another human being, whom he has hurt rather than helped?  How can he yell at coworkers, rage at bad drivers, be short with the checkout lady?  Where is his empathy then?  Where does empathy stop and violence begin?  How can we as humans be so callous to some people’s suffering while tenderly nurturing other people?

Our own group of people get our care while other groups of people usually do not.  In-group outgroup bias says that in-group members will relate to each other in favorable ways but they will relate to members of outgroups in less favorable ways (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  In-group members tend to give more support, assistance and compassion to members of their own group.  When conflict arises, in-group members are given more slack, judged less than outgroup members, and forgiven more easily.  In-group extremity effect says that we see those in our own group in ways that are exaggeratedly positive (In-group extremity, 2018).  We tend to be more understanding of them and believe that negative events that happened to them occur more often for external causes then for internal causes.  We are quick to believe in their goodness and that anything negative was the result of circumstances.  Contrarily for outgroup members, whom we are less likely to understand and be connected to, we attribute negative events in their life to internal factors like their own ignorance, incompetence or even wickedness.  This leads to negative stereotypical views.  You often hear people talking about other groups as simply bad or evil.   If we can step back and look at the humanity of the other group and realize that what they are doing comes out of their own needs, then we can see their interconnectedness to ourselves.  We can see them as people just like we are.

Positive intergroup contact has been shown to reduce levels of violent tendencies in both advantaged and disadvantaged outgroups (Saab, Harb, & Moughalian, 2017).  The key here is positive.  Intergroup contact in general may not lead to better relations, since the more powerful group is frequently seen as disenfranchising the lesser group in some way, maybe through thoughtless condescending comments or attitudes (Schneider et al., 2012).  But when contact truly is positive, relations get better.  How does this relate to in-group outgroup theories?  When we have positive contact with those in other groups it helps us feel connected to them.  Our groups are no longer so separate.  We may start to assimilate them mentally closer into our own group, which leads to better cognitions about them.

But people take the path of least resistance. It’s easier to rise up in defense of our views than to listen openly to someone we don’t agree with.  While empathy can break down barriers, defensiveness can provoke attacks from the other side (Böhm, Rusch, & Gürerk, 2016).  When we are defensive instead of empathetic, we are not connecting.  We are not on the same team, not part of the same tribe, not recognizing the other’s humanness and needs.  However, if we continue to listen, we will eventually get to a real human need that we can identify with.

In “Nonviolent communication,” international peacemaker Marshall Rosenberg tells a story in which he was meeting with leaders from Palestine and Israel to try to talk about compromise and make efforts toward peace.  He was accosted by a Palestinian man who used abusive tone and language, yelling “Murderer!  Child-killer!” regarding Rosenberg’s citizenship in the US which was supplying Israel with weapons.  The man demanded to know whether Rosenberg had any idea how hard it was to live in a place where your children are at risk even going to school?  Rather than get defensive or react angrily, Rosenberg listened with compassion and apologized for the fear and stress that the man and his family have had to live through.  He kept this up through 20 minutes of the man’s onslaughts.  This empathy eventually broke down the man’s wall of armor and he started to feel understood and cared about.  Rosenberg had reached across groups and connected in a positive humanitarian way that led to such genuine care that he ended up being invited into the man’s home, now part of his tribe.

How can we lessen violence toward people outside of our group?  Build empathy toward all humans, regardless of which group they are in?

We need a viewpoint that see humans as all part of one big group, rather than focusing on differences.  One such viewpoint is the Christian faith.  It is made up of those who have faith in Jesus no matter what cultural or ethnic group they belong to.  It is one body, spread throughout the world, crossing country and party lines.  Some of Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount include directives of how to treat others.  “Do unto others as you would like them to do to you.”  “If a man asks you to walk with him a mile, walk with him two.”  One of the boldest statements is “Love your enemies.” (Matthew 5, paraphrased). This is really getting outside of our in-group.  Stopping to help a hurt person who is a stranger is one thing, but having empathy for an actual enemy?

Perhaps this is why Jesus said that whoever follows him and does the will of his Father is his mother, sister and brother.  This puts all Christians in the same in-group of a big family.  Yet Jesus’ directive is to have empathy for all outside this family as well.  When a lawyer asked him how to fulfill the law of love, Jesus answered with a parable of a man who was hurt on the side of the road.  A Levite and a priest both passed by and didn’t help, but finally a Samaritan, a man from a hated out-group of the Jews, stopped.  He had empathy for this Jew, his ethnic enemy, a stranger.  He cleaned his wounds, brought him to an inn, cared for him and left money for his further care.  This was Jesus’ example of how to love.  He shows us that there should be no out-groups in humanity.  Love should pass over ethnic and cultural lines, even gender and religious ones.  For “Christians” throughout the ages have in fact been the cause of much bloodshed, whether in battle, or through “just war,” or even through interpersonal violence.  Just having the label “Christian” does not make someone so.  It’s through actions that our true nature is known.  By stopping to help, by loving, by caring, we show that the stranger is really part of our humanity.  She is part of our in-group, part of our tribe.  She… IS my neighbor, my sister, my mother.



Böhm, R., Rusch, H., & Gürerk, Ö. (2016). What makes people go to war? Defensive intentions motivate retaliatory and preemptive intergroup aggression. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37(1), 29-34.

Ingroup extremity effect.  (2018).  APA Dictionary of Psychology.  Retrieved on Feb. 15, 2019 from: https://dictionary.apa.org/ingroup-extremity-effect.

Rosenberg, M.  (2015).  Nonviolent communication: A language of life.  Encinitas, CA: Puddledancer Press.

Saab, R., Harb, C. & Moughalian, C.  (2017).  Intergroup contact as a predictor of violent and nonviolent collective action: Evidence from Syrian refugees and Lebanese nationals.  Journal of Peace Psychology, 23(3), 297-306.

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L.  (2012).  Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Sep 18

Can Discrimination Negatively Affect Health?

In the United States, minorities have an increasingly disproportionate rate of diseases, injuries and premature death.  Discrimination has received national attention in regards to law enforcement and education, but can it affect public health, too? Discrimination is the unequal treatment or negative behavior towards an individual solely based on their membership to another group (Jones, 1997).

There are several ways that race can determine health.  Race normally determines living conditions and opportunities.  These opportunities (sometimes known as white privilege) are not automatically presented for many minority groups.  Lack of opportunity affects education, location, and employment.   Location also influences opportunity and convenience of reliable and quality healthcare.  Finally, many individuals may engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with some of the difficult circumstances that come with being part of a minority group.

Racism and discrimination have negative effects on mental health.  Some studies have found that discrimination not only adds to stress but can be a pathogen in itself (National Institute of Health, 2004).  This is not a new concept.  W.E.B. Du Bois (2003) wrote that “the Negro death rate and sickness are largely matters of condition and not due to racial traits and tendencies.”  Over the lifetime, discrimination and prejudice are internalized, becoming unhealthy for the mind and body.  Even for individuals that have not personally been discriminated against, they can become hyper aware for mistreatment, leading to chronic stress.  After last week’s blog report on stress and gut-wrenching anxiety, it’s no surprise that chronic stress in minority groups would contribute to poor health outcomes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has instituted several initiatives, with the goal of eliminating health disparity among ethnic minorities in the United States.  Public awareness campaigns continue to encourage people to care for loved ones and seek medical help when needed (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).





DuBois, W. E. B. (2003). The Health and Physique of the Negro American. American Journal of Public Health93(2), 272–276.

Jones JM. Prejudice and Racism. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1997.

National Institute of Health; Bulatao RA, Anderson NB, editors. (2004). Understanding Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life: A Research Agenda. National Academies Press 7, Prejudice and Discrimination. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK24680/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2004, August). Health Disparities Experienced by Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5333a1.htm

Williams DR, Neighbors HW, Jackson JS. Racial/ethnic discrimination and health: Findings from community studies. American Journal of Public Health. 2003;93

Apr 18

Classifying Ourselves into Seclusion

Social Categorization, a mechanism that all humans have, is a built in file cabinet deep within the social cognitive process of the brain. Social categorization allows humans the ability to understand relationships and make sense of other people and the world we live in. This social cognitive mechanism allows our brains to classify people into groups (PSUWC, Lesson 6). This natural process helps our brains to identify what is safe and what is a threat to our survival. What is survival? The Oxford Dictionary defines survival as “the continued existence of organisms, which are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others…”(Survival. n.d.). It is also defined in the Oxford dictionary as, “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.”(Survival. n.d.). For this purpose, I am going to incorporate Darwins’ Theory of Evolution as defined as, is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.”(Than. 2018) As you can see the Oxford definition of “Survival” and Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution” go hand in hand and are very similar. It is safe to state that in order to survive; One’s brain must adapt social cognitive mechanisms, by processing the every change world in to processes to survive. This social cognitive categorization not only affects people physically, but also cognitive processes. By experiences, people are subjected to help define their social identity and social dominance to survive. Social Identity Theory incorporates both personal identity and social identity. Personal identity can be a combination of objective biosocial personal markers and subjective personal experiences (PSUWC. Lesson 6.). Social identity comes from self-concept. What defines self-concept? Well self-concept come from self-categorization based on the knowledge, acceptance, connection and commitment to a group (PSUWC, Lesson 6). Humans have built a file cabinet that defines who they are, which can influence survival. If a person has high self-concept and feel apart of a group then the possibility of mental illness also lowers. Leaving less deaths to things such as suicide. I hope your still following me, I know I am touch on these topics, but it all relevant. For example, in Today’s society it is acceptable to have what we classify as appropriate groups and not appropriate groups. Everyone’s perception of this differs in certain ways. Children is the easiest way to see this. If you look a one class, you have students that are skinny, short, pudgy, tall, athletic, smarter than others…ect. These are all categories, that are socially acceptable.

One day you are eating lunch with your child and another child from the classroom has an outburst. The staff try to console them, in your mind you are trying to make sense of why this child all of a sudden had an outburst. Some may think they are not disciplined, that they must have problems at home, that they have anger issues ect… This is how our brains are processing the unexpected action of another child. Then your child mentions that this child is different and it happens all the time, so now your brain, put this child into a special needs category and your concerned for the safety of children. This example is pretty short and sweet. However it does happen. That child is what is categorized as autistic. The outburst was from a heighten sensory issue due to the noise of the lunchroom. This child will most likely not eat for the rest of the day, much less function a productive scale. You have no knowledge or experience with autistic children, you may advise your child to stay away from this child for fear of being different or safety of your child. What this does is start a vicious process to exclude this child for acting typical to their needs. If you have a headache, you go to a quiet space. Sensory processing issues are heighten typical issues that the brain can not process. The end of this situation is that Social categorization happened and started the process of seclusion, because their reaction is not what society deems typical. However, what is not well known that in the past ten years people identified with autism has increased 119% (Autism Society. 2015.). Darwin’s theory states evolution is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.”(Than.2018) This rise in people being identified with autism could be a natural change in evolution. Based on the Oxford Dictionary is child survives,  based on the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.”(Survival. n.d.) However, because this child is categorized by society and is excluded from social groups, they suffer from lack of self-concept. They are seen as the less dominate within their peer groups. What society doesn’t know about these children is they are the pros at categorizing information, they can synthesis greater concepts beyond our understanding. They are just missing their voice, their self-concept. Unfortunately, in Today’s society we have adults that are excluded based on “disability”. A Categorization for society to make sense of the world. However, our dated evolution has everything in our lives categorized, to the extent of seclusion that is influencing survival.



Autism Society.Facts and Statistics. (2015, August 26). Retrieved April 02, 2018, from http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/

PSU World Campus. (2018). PSYCH 424:Social Psychology. Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1924488/assignments/9628601?module_item_id=23682597

Survival | Definition of survival in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/survival

Than, K. (2018, February 26). What is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? Retrieved April 11, 2018, from https://www.livescience.com/474-controversy-evolution-works.html

Feb 18

Colleges and Intergroup relations

So, how do colleges address and encourage natural experiences and dialogue? Some colleges are attempting to address discrimination through offering intergroup dialogue classes, sessions, and even entire majors devoted to intergroup relations. Some goals of intergroup relations programs are to foster spaces for students to interact. Intergroup dialogues are intended to be spaces to connect students through broadening their understanding of those who they perceive to fit into some different groups. This strategy is consistent with Allport’s Contact Hypothesis which emphasizes the value of positive contact in decreasing negative stereotypes (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013).

The University of Michigan offers several intergroup dialogue classes for students to participate in. Once students are approved to participate in a 3-credit class, they are placed into a specific “topic placement such as race, ethnicity, SES, Gender, etc.” (Michigan State, 2018). The dialogues are facilitated by trained students who encourage dialogue and discussion in response to reading materials (Michigan State, 2018). A goal of these dialogues is to encourage and foster a culturally diverse community where students are treated respectfully and equally. This program focuses on rich and meaningful conversations with intentionally diverse groups.

Villanova University offers something a little different to Michigan state, as they offer up to three, 1-credit intergroup relation courses to their students as free electives. Noting that “One credit IGR courses are designed to prepare students to create dialogues in situations where understanding and listening are needed” (Villanova, 2018). A goal of this initiative is to encourage and equip students for authentic and respectful interactions. This program defines intergroup relations as an “educational experience about issues of social justice” (Villanova, 2018). These classes are structured to better understand differences among group members through dialogue, exercises, and readings. Each class focuses on a specific topic such as gender, racial identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status and students are encouraged to take more than one course.

Intergroup relations groups encourage participation and thoughtful responses to topics related to various stereotypes and biases. They aim to address issues within society, colleges, and even personally. Colleges are addressing conflict resolution through contact hypothesis by providing spaces for students to find commonalities by interacting with one another (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013).  Consistent with Allport’s hypothesis, intergroup relations aim to address perceived inequalities and foster a space for understanding where all participants are treated equally (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013). Through providing opportunities for students to positively interact with one another equally and respectfully, colleges are aiming to encourage a stronger community.

Colleges are taking a variety of approaches to address inequality, discrimination, and diversity. In my opinion, colleges have a responsibility to give their students opportunities to learn from one another. I am not certain what approach is the best to take and I would assume that people have different experiences and perspectives of what approach is most appropriate to encourage a healthy and diverse community. However, it is extremely important that educational settings make connecting people and breaking down barriers a priority. Colleges must address discrimination directly and offer learning opportunities for students while also ensuring a safe and healthy community for all students.


Schneider, F. W. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

University of Michigan. (2018). Intergroup Dialogues. Retrieved from The Program of Intergroup Relations: https://igr.umich.edu/article/intergroup-dialogues

Villanova University. (2018). Office of the Provost. Retrieved from Villanova.edu: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/provost/diversity/igr.html

Oct 14

Benevolent Sexism Is Not Benign

By Amy Caraballo

Benevolent sexism, discriminatory attitudes in the form of caring, complimentary, or pseudo-respectful statements, is likely one of the most surreptitious forms of sexism in our world, today. Studies have found that it is an important perpetuating factor that helps maintain gender inequality (Hammond, et al., 2014). Even more troubling is that victims sometimes pass on and encourage these attitudes believing them to be compliments or signs of respect (Hammond, et al., 2014). One only has to visit the Internet meme world to find hundreds of benevolent sexist examples, many of which are circulated by the most common victims, women and girls. It is difficult to understand how victims could spread harmful stereotypes about themselves. When one looks closer, however, the issue becomes clear; the effects of benevolent sexism are so pervasive and invisible, its victims are often completely unaware they have been wronged. Instead, it seems they sometimes believe they are empowered.

When the Powerful Dominate the Powerless

Sexist Message: A woman's purpose is to serve a man's every need.

Sexist Message: A woman’s purpose is to serve a man’s every need. Credit: lovethispic.com

Social Dominance Theory suggests that groups, including societies, are built upon group-based hierarchies with a few dominant groups controlling all the resources and power. The rest are all subordinate groups, or low-level groups that have few resources and little power. These groups are typically at the mercy of the dominant groups (Pratto, et al., 2006). In the case of gender in our society, classic males are dominant while classic females are subordinate. It is not just brute force and power that keeps the subordinates in their place, either. Helping maintain these hierarchies are more subtle tools such as legitimizing myths, otherwise known as culturally held beliefs (Pratto, et al., 2006). Much like folklore, legitimizing myths are beliefs and stereotypes about the way things are in a given culture or society. It is from these legitimizing myths benevolent sexist ideas were born and continue to be maintained. Statements like “women are caregivers” while “men are providers” and “girls are dainty and sensitive” while “boys are strong and thick-skinned” are examples of legitimizing myths about genders. These ideals are conditioned at the moment of birth by the type of words children hear at home, the influences of endless media exposure, and the influence of peers (Witt, 2000). Later, when these myths are woven into compliments and caring statements, it is harder to see the malicious intent which ultimately is to keep the genders unequal.

But It Was Meant as a Compliment

“Women are too emotionally unstable to be leaders.”

It is pretty clear, to most people, that this remark is sexist. But what about this comment?

“Women are better caregivers because they are nurturing.”

Sexist Message: A woman needs to be protected by a man and should be kept in her place.

Sexist Message: A woman needs to be protected by a man and should be kept in her place. Credit: all-greatquotes.com

It sounds a bit like a compliment to women. When we look closer, however, a sexist message is noticed; women should raise children. There is also a sexist message toward men; men are not supposed to be nurturing. If your thoughts turn toward examples of people who fit these stereotypes, thank legitimizing myths for shaping how society views and pigeonholes gender roles.

Compliments Do Not Hurt Anyone


Sexist Message: Girls are too emotional. Credit: theteenagerquotes.tumblr.com

It may be true that a real compliment is honoring. Benevolent sexist remarks, however, are not true compliments. Benevolent sexist remarks help spread the stereotype of the weak, frail, and emotionally unstable female (Tannenbaum, 2013). Additionally, studies have shown that women exposed to benevolent sexist attitudes were more likely to give in to those stereotypes thus maintaining their own gender inequality (Tannenbaum, 2013).

Where Do We Go From Here?

In order to stop the legitimacy of these cultural myths we have to do better at educating the public. We need awareness about what benevolent sexism is and how prevalent it has become. We can only fight back against such sexism once we understand what it is and how to recognize when its used. We must speak up when we hear it or see it and not condone its use by remaining silent. We must teach children to recognize this form of sexism and how to respond to its wrongful messages.

We must remove the invisibility cloak of this form of sexism and see it for what it is. Only then can we begin to aspire for gender equality. Benevolent sexism is not empowering. It is not benign. And certainly it is harmful to a society that strives for equal opportunity.

Hammond, M. D., Sibley, C. G., & Overall, N. C. (2014). The allure of sexism: Psychological entitlement fosters women’s endorsement of benevolent sexism over time. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(4), 422-429. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1948550613506124

Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., & Levin, S. (2006). Social dominance theory and the dynamics of intergroup relations: Taking stock and looking forward. European Review of Social Psychology, 17, 271-320.

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., Coutts, L. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Tannenbaum, M. (2013). The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly… PsySociety, Scientific American Blog Network. Scientific American Global. Retrieved October 4, 2014, at: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psysociety/2013/04/02/benevolent-sexism/

Witt, S. D. (2000). The influence of peers on children’s socialization to gender roles. Early Child Development and Care, 162, 1-7. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0300443001620101

Oct 14

The Prevalence of Racial Discrimination in Small Communities

Growing up in a town with a population of about 300, I was never exposed to much cultural diversity although I had never really been exposed to any sort of racial discrimination. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I first experienced discrimination, which came from my grandparents at the sight of a colored man holding hands with a white woman. Having experienced such things in movies and on television I had never seen anything wrong with this situation and had spoken up in their defense to much disapproval of my family. Once in high school I realized the major cultural stigma that I was trapped in being in that environment. It was then that I first experienced the group conflicts that are highly prevalent in societies yet today. After attending two years of schooling on a college campus I was thrilled to find that there was not always a presence of group conflicts, yet I eventually moved to yet another small community.

I crossed several states and moved into a new setting, from cornfields to mountains, to once again find that conflicts are a common problem within several communities. In this new small town I recently experienced my first brush with racial bias and in-group and out-group conflicts. Even though this town has a much larger population, a little over 1,000, I feel as if I never left the little blip that I had grown up in. During my lunch break at work while sitting with the owner of the business, I overheard several racially biased remarks as well as derogatory statements that put down the entire out-group; which in this example is African Americans. This conversation consisted of several remarks regarding their supposed choice of diet as well as work ethics, remarks that portrayed them as a lazy race that depended on the Whites for support. With the views I formed while growing up, it is hard for me to comprehend such bias.

The conversation that I overheard is an example of intergroup bias, which is defined as the evaluation of one’s group (in-group) more favorably than other groups (out-group). This bias gives rise to discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping (Hewstone, Rubin, Willis, 2002). The example used is considered a form of discrimination by theoretical terms since one member of the in-group reached out to the other in confidence and showed favoritism to the in-group. This instance can best be described under the social identity theory, more specifically the self-esteem hypothesis, since speaking of the work attitude of the opposite race seemed to boost his confidence and self-esteem in his own abilities as well as the in-group as a whole (Hewstone, Rubin, Willis, 2002). After listening to the conversation for several minutes I began to wonder what approach would be able to reduce the bias that was being experienced between this particular in-group and out-group.

It was obvious that the intergroup contact hypothesis would not be effective since the instigator of the conversation had contact with the out-group of a regular basis as a part of his job, yet still held such high bias of the group. In order to overcome this it would require a direct approach that would bring the prejudice to the front of the mind and will provide the solutions to combat it (Hewstone, Rubin, Willis, 2002). Within the article by Hewstone, there is mentions of “prejudice with compunction” that causes awareness between a person’s values and their real life actions towards the out-group that would activate a sort of self-directed guilt that would ultimately reduce bias across several settings. Of course this approach would require practice and awareness (Hewstone, Rubin, Willis, 2002).

Experiencing such a conversation has wrecked my brain since then to farther understand the conflicts that are found between the in-group and out-groups of a culture. While the studies themselves can be ultimately interesting and almost satisfying, the topic itself saddens me especially on the racial front since we have tried to overcome the stigma that one race is superior to the rest and can do no wrong. While I know that great progress has been made on this front, it will always be in the back of my mind that there are those that still hold such strong negative views that are not accurately represented in the out-group by any means. My aspiration in life is to live in a culturally diverse environment that will eliminate racial intergroup conflicts and will pave way for better examples of behavior for future generations.

Hewstone, Miles. Rubin, Mark. Willis, Hazel. (2002). Intergroup bias. Annual Review of Psychology 53. 575-604. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/205801786?pq-origsite=summon


Feb 14

Organization + Intergroup Relations | For better or worse.

Organizations can range from a little as two people to millions as seen in the Department of Defense however, regardless of size there are key components any successful organization must have (The Economist, 2011). Marriage, for example, is a simple organization of two individuals that engage in many of the same behaviors that a major organization engages in such as communication and group decision making (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). Just as communication is key to the success of a large organization so too is communication’s role in marriage. Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) define communication as a social behavior of at least two people interacting and providing one another with information (p. 233). Furthermore, Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) go on to discuss the actual model of communication which includes conveying a message by means of a medium (“channel”) that must be encoded, decoded and received by another individual (p. 233). Within a marriage, the same process takes place. For instance, take the simple chore of washing dishes – a wife (or husband) may verbally or nonverbally convey to their significant other that they would like help washing the dishes. In order to do this, the wife must form her thoughts into a message to communicate to her husband. Typically this message, once formed, is likely to be conveyed through a face-to-face medium. Once the wife has transmitted her message the husband then receives and decodes the message (and hopefully agrees to help do the dishes!). This process can go back and forth and can be very clear or can result in a disagreement due to lack of clarity.

Penley, Alexander, Jernigan and Henwood (1991) uncovered that managers of corporations with effective communication skills outperform others and this is also the case for effective communicators within a marriage. In order for managers to be effective and efficient communicators they must be able to provide clear objectives and accurate feedback (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). In order for a married couple to communicate efficiently they too must be clear and accurate in their requests, concerns, desires etc. Now this does not always occur within organizations nor does it always occur within a marriage and when it does not follow this communication model, problems may arise whether it be the wrong person getting laid off or a big argument over who left the toilet seat up.

Krone, Jablin and Putnam (1987) described that within the psychological perspective a major influencing factor of how something is received or communicated is an individual’s “conceptual filter” (p. 234). A conceptual filter incorporates an individual’s cognitions, attitudes and perceptions (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). Therefore, it is essential to take into consideration in an organization when communicating with another individual as they will have a different conceptual filter. This is the same in a marriage, just because two people fall in love and have many of the same attitudes and opinions does not mean that their conceptual filter is the same. In order to be an effective communicator in both an organization and a marriage, one must consider how their message may be influenced by another’s conceptual filter.

Modern organizations have begun to place more emphasis on teams in order to divide up and assign specific tasks to specialized individuals (Pennsylvania State University, 2014). A team, or group, can be defined as “two or more persons who are interacting with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person” (Pennsylvania State University, 2014; Shaw, 1981). A marriage then, can also be seen as a team of two individuals who influence and are influenced by one another. Additionally, teams are divided up based on specialization and within a marriage this can be seen by having the husband and wife both take on different roles. Perhaps the husband takes on the “team role” of investing in the stock market and mowing the lawn while the wife assumes the role of providing a nice dinner and paying the bills. Whatever the roles may be, it often takes a team effort to achieve and maintain a functioning household.

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The Economist. (2011). Who are the world’s biggest employers? Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/employment?fsrc=scn/tw/te/dc/defending.

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