Culture and Prejudice

A couple of study hints before we go too far…

  1. Later in the course, we will summarise how situational factors can affect levels of prejudice and part of this discussion will be about social norms. Please note that social norms also relate to cultural norms and therefore information from future lessons may also be relevant to this debate.
  1. Also you should understand that the longer a person is exposed to the norms of a culture, the more like they are to influence their behaviour, also the more a person identifies with that cultural groups the more likely they are to start behaving in ways which reflect cultural norms. This means that cultural norms affect people in a developmental way, i.e. a person’s behaviour will gradually change over time. This is important as the exam might ask you about the developmental perspective on prejudice.

The theories of prejudice that we are going to consider in this topic, all suggest that prejudice can arise anywhere, in any culture; the theories are said to be “universal”, as the theorists that created them did not think that culture would affect the development of prejudice and/or discrimination.

However this is not the case!

  1. What does Tajfel and Turner’s Social Identity Theory say about the causes prejudice?
  1. Think about Wetherall’s minimal groups study; what was the IV? What did they find?
  1. What does Wetherall’s study tell us about Social Identity Theory? What word could we use to describe the a theory which only explains the behaviour of people in one culture?
  1. When a theorist does not realise that their theory may not explain the behaviour of people in another culture and simply assumes that everyone behaves in the same way, what to we call this: B…………… B…………….
  1. It is possible the Wetherall’s research team expected the Polynesian children to behave differently to the White New Zealanders, and therefore when they found these differences, they were in fact an artefact of the study rather than being real differences affecting the children’s everyday behaviour. When researchers conduct cross-cultural research in order to validate a theory for example, and find the differences that they expected this can be an example of A……………. B……………..
  1. What can researchers do to minimise the validity problems such as these? How do we conduct cross cultural research in a way that return useful and meaningful findings?

Think about the study by Yuki et al (2005)

  1. What was the IV and the DV in this study?
  2. What did the study find?
  3. What does this study tells us about how culture affects social categorisation and social comparison?
  4. How does this study link to social identity theory? Does it support or refute its usefulness for making predictions about behaviour in the real world?
  5. What can we conclude from this study regarding how culture affects prejudice?

Think about Tyerman and Spencer…

  1. What does Realistic Conflict Theory say about the causes of prejudice?
  2. Which study is the best known support for this theory?
  3. What did Sherif conclude was the most important factor in eliciting prejudice and discrimination?
  4. What did Tyerman and Spencer find in their replication?
  5. What does Tyerman and Spencer’s study tell us about RCT?
  6. What does it tells us about the power of social norms in mediating prejudice?

There is research evidence that suggests that concepts like RWA and SDO are not affected by cultural differences, meaning that certain “prejudice prone” personality types exists across countries.

These studies have taken an etic approach in measuring personality across cultures using the same tests. Countries including the USA, Germany, Sweden, Australia, The Netherlands, UK and France have all been assessed and findings are similar across these nations.

  1. Although these findings suggest that prejudice may not be affected by culture, what are the problems of taking an ETIC approach?
  2. Also, can you spot anything at issues with sample of countries?
  3. Imagine that you are going to conduct some research into cultural factors affecting levels of prejudice demonstrated under various social circumstances, how would you proceed?
  4. What does it mean to take an EMIC approach in research?
  5. How could you build an emic dimension into your work? What research methodologies lend themselves to EMIC research?


Let’s think about the nature/nurture debate for a moment…this might be tricky! But there’s a first time for everything…

  1. If your study demonstrated that similar factors were involved in triggering prejudice all around the world, what conclusions could you reasonably draw about prejudice and discrimination; think nature/nurture.
  2. If you found that the circumstances that elicit prejudice seem very different depending on cultural norms and differing environmental experiences for example, what might we conclude about the causes of prejudice?

A final warning about assuming homogeneity within cultural groups:

 Find out what is meant by the Japanese phrase: “shin-jinrui”: try the following websites:

Your understanding of this phrase should help you to recognise that different generations within the same culture are affected by differing social norms. These norms are based on differing “world views”, which in turn, are dependent on differing social, economic and political circumstances including differing narratives, promulgated through the media about the countries status with regard to the rest of the world and so on. This suggest that we need to take care when we think about how culture might affect prejudice as we can see here that the young Japanese might behave quite differently towards strangers compared with older Japanese.

TRICKY QUESTION ALERT! Think about Yuki’s study; could you redesign the study to include a group of older and a group of younger Japanese people (shin-jinrui). How do you think this IV would affect the DV; would the younger Japanese who have rejected some of the older generations cultural norms be more or less prejudiced towards a stranger?

Stretch and Challenge

You may be interested to pursue your understanding of this topic yet further!

The following exercise prompts you to think even more about how culture impacts prejudice and how national policies affect prejudice in society….

  1. Find out what is meant by “multiculturalism” and “assimilation”. These are two different ways that a country may approach immigration.
  2. How do you think these national policies affect prejudice between different sub-cultures in a country? Do you think the policies lead to less/more prejudice? What factors will affect this? Think about factors which change over time and might alter how the impact of a national policy of multiculturalism for example.
  3. Can you think how these terms might impact our understanding of the Tales of the City story about radicalisation?