“Prejudice. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.”  —Ambrose Bierce,  The Devil’s Dictionary,  1911

Prejudice comes in many forms—for our own group and against some other group: against “northeastern liberals” or “southern rednecks,” against Arab “terrorists” or American “infidels,” and against people who are fat or homely or single.

 Consider some striking examples:

  • Religion.  In the aftermath of 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Americans with a strong national identity expressed the most disdain for Arab immigrants (Lyons & others, 2010). And if told a job applicant is Muslim, many managers are not inclined to hire or pay well (Park & others, 2009). “Muslims are one of the last minorities in the U.S. that it is still possible to demean openly,” observed columnist Nicholas Kristof (2010) as antagonism toward Islamic mosques flared. In Europe, most non-Muslims express concern about “Islamic extremism” and perceive poor Muslim-Western relations (Pew, 2011). Middle Eastern Muslims reciprocate the negativity toward “greedy” and “immoral” Westerners and frequently report not believing that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks (Wike & Grim, 2007; Pew, 2011). 
  • Obesity.  When seeking love and employment, overweight people—especially White women—face slim prospects

In correlational studies, overweight people marry less often, gain entry to less-desirable jobs, and make less money (Swami & others, 2008). In experiments where some people’s photo images are widened to make them appear overweight, they are perceived as less attractive, intelligent, happy, self- disciplined, and successful (Gortmaker & others, 1993; Hebl & Heatherton, 1998; Pingitore & others, 1994). Weight discrimination, in fact, exceeds racial or gender discrimination and occurs at every employment stage—hiring, placement, promotion, compensation, discipline, and discharge (Roehling, 2000). Negative assumptions about and discrimination against overweight people help explain why overweight women and obese men seldom ( relative to their numbers in the general population) become the CEOs of large corporations or get elected to office (Roehling & others, 2008, 2009, 2010). As children, the obese are more often bullied, and as adults, they are more often depressed (de Wit & others, 2010; Lumeng & others, 2010; Luppino & others, 2010; Mendes, 2010).


  • Sexual orientation.  Many gay youth two-thirds of gay secondary school students in one national British survey—report experiencing homophobic bullying (Hunt & Jensen, 2007). The U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health revealed that gay and lesbian teens are much more likely to be harshly punished by schools and courts than are their straight peers, despite being less likely to engage in serious wrongdoing (Himmelstein & Brückner, 2011). Among adults, one in five British lesbians and gays report having been victimized by aggressive harassment, insults, or physical assaults (Dick, 2008). In a U.S. national survey, 20 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons reported having experienced a personal or property crime owing to their sexual orientation, and half reported experiencing verbal harassment (Herek, 2009). 
  • Age.  People’s perceptions of the elderly—as generally kind but frail, incompetent, and unproductive—predispose patronizing behavior, such as baby-talk speech that leads elderly people to feel less competent and act less capable (Bugental & Hehman, 2007). 
  • Immigrants.  A fast-growing research literature documents anti-immigrant prejudice among Germans toward Turks, the French toward North Africans, the British toward West Indians and Pakistanis, and Americans toward Latin  American immigrants (Pettigrew, 2006). As we will see, the same factors that feed racial and gender prejudice also feed dislike of immigrants (Pettigrew & others, 2008; Zick & others, 2008).   

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