Thinking about Others: Evaluating the Way We Perceive Other People

Our attitudes towards things are simply evaluations we make based upon our reactions.

There are explicit and implicit attitudes that are present at most times. Conscious attitudes we have about a situation are explicit and attitudes we are unaware that we have are implicit. Our attitudes can often be predictors to our behaviors that follow a certain attitude.

If Jim has the attitude that he hates all black people, Jim is most likely not going to act favorably when he is introduced to Joe, a new black student at his school. Then again, Jim may be very pleasant and enthusiastic about meeting Joe which conflicts with his explicit attitude. When our behaviors do not match our attitudes this is called cognitive dissonance and can be quite uncomfortable to experience.

Attributions play a huge role in forming our attitudes and whether they will be positive or negative. Attributions are what you attribute a situation to; if you blame an internal attribution for the reason your taxi is late picking you up, you are choosing to pinpoint a dispositional attribute of the taxi driver (laziness, he is a jerk, etc…) as the cause. If you instead look at an external attribution as the cause of his lateness you will blame the traffic or mechanical issues as the cause.  

    Explanatory styles can also help us to decipher which attribution will be made towards a certain situation. The optimistic explanatory style is seeing a positive situation as internal, stable, and global whereas a negative event will be looked at as external, unstable, and specific.

For example, if you wake up to your yard having been toilet-papered by the neighborhood children you could employ the optimistic explanatory style which would be that it was not a person attack (external), you just clean it up forgetting about it altogether (unstable), and it was just some kids having fun (specific).

If you were to look at the same situation from a pessimistic explanatory style you would think it was a personal attack and you are hated (internal), think you will never be safe from another attack (stable), and think that you are not that good of a person and you do not blame them for doing this (global).

The explanatory style one chooses to employ can change the outlook and attitude and decipher whether it will be a positive or negative one.

Though stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination often go hand in hand, they are each a distinctively different act based upon the attitude we have towards someone/something.

A stereotype is what we believe about a certain group of people, prejudice is a negative attitude about an individual based on the fact they are part of a certain group, and discrimination is a negative behavior towards an individuals or groups based solely on feelings about those groups. These occur when people make judgments about others, some based on little to no knowledge of that group/individual what-so-ever.

There are many different factors when figuring out where ones prejudice, stereotypes, or discriminations come from. Humans tend to use a cognitive process called categorizing to most easily separate and process information more efficiently.

In doing this generalizations are often made which groups people together without taking any individual factors into consideration. A person also tends to stand behind a member of their in-group, or circle, which can often create negative feelings never personally experienced until subjected to another’s feelings towards something/someone.

For example, Jean had no prejudice against Mexican’s until she met Julie and Tim who absolutely despise the race. Jean is more likely to adhere to how Julie and Time feel rather than stick out or jeopardize their acceptance towards her. That is Julie and Tim’s social “norm” as they grew up with parents that also hated Mexican’s.

People tend to sway with what the social norms of their society tell them to believe about certain groups of people/things.

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