Prejudice refers to negative evaluations of a group or of the members of a group without considering them as individuals.
The various causes of prejudice are as follows :
Social learning : Children are not bom with prejudices. They leam them from their family, peers, media and society around them. Socialization refers to the process by which children leam the conventional social norms of their surroundings. Prejudice can be learned inside or outside the home. It can take place through the standard social learning mechanisms.
For example: Children may simply initiate the prejudices of adults and friends, they may be positively reinforced by using derogatory ethnic humour; or simply learn to associate particular minority groups with poverty, crime, dirtiness and other negative characteristics. For e.g., : While North Americans have historically tended to be more prejudiced against those who originally came from Africa, Asia and Latin America, than against those who came from Western Europe.
Realistic competition : Prejudice also stems from inter group competition. This idea begins with the assumption that society is composed of groups that differ in power, economic resources, social status and other desirable attributes.
Dominant groups are motivated to maintain their privileged positions and subordinate groups are motivated to reduce that inequality. The competition produces inter group conflict and therefore prejudice.
Realistic group conflict theory views prejudice as an inevitable consequence of competition among groups for resources or power.
For example : Prejudice may stem from competition between blacks and Latinos for blue-collar jobs, or between whites and minorities for admission to selective colleges.
Stereotyping : Stereotypes are beliefs (cognitive component) about the personal attributes shared by people in a particular group or social category. Nineteenth century stereotypes of Native Americans described them as dirty, cruel and warlike savages. Twentieth century stereotypes tend to depict them as silent , passive, drunken and lazy. Stereotypes form the basis of prejudice, which is the effective component of group antagonism. Thus prejudices are a result of stereotypes present in an individual.