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Intervention: Prejudice and Group Perception

Discrimination, intolerance, and uncritical judgments of others are some of the most serious issues we face as a world today. We all make meaning from the world by making categories for things, the inanimate as well as the animate, as well as for ourselves and the people around us. This process is unconscious and can be automatically triggered by very small cues in the environment. Sometimes people, especially young adults, may come to view certain individuals and groups solely through the lens of given categories and not see their unique qualities and genuine attributes.

We all have the innate capacity to view and treat others with prejudice or preference, and we do so at times without ever being realizing it. Teaching students to become more aware of this tendency, both within themselves and others, as well as how to change it, can serve at as a starting point in breaking down stereotypes and group conflicts.  Students have a natural tendency to treat the people they feel closely connected to well and to assume good things about them. Unfortunately, they also unconsciously tend to make certain negative assumptions about others whom seem unlike themselves and can even treat them with negative prejudice without ever realizing it.

It is possible for students to become more aware of and overcome this tendency to at least some extent, while also learning to be less reliant on categories and stereotypes in their evaluation and treatment of others. Psychology also offers us a number of suggestions for how we can begin to reduce such barriers to group harmony and cooperation, and students are capable of using this knowledge to create positive change in their peer-groups and communities. The focus of this lesson is to teach students to be aware of their own automatic tendencies to group others and to make them aware of the assumptions and behaviors that result from it as well as how they can begin to change them.

Our students gain an increased awareness of their tendency to automatically make assumptions about other people and groups, which can be positive or negative. This results in a decreased tendency for them to rely on stereotypes when evaluating others. This gives students an increased ability to resist automatic social grouping and to interact with others based on their individual traits and characters rather than their group identity. It also helps to make them more resilient when they experience prejudice and discrimination from others, since they have a deeper understanding of the process.