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The Merriam – Webster online dictionary defines the word ‘Prejudice’ as an “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights”. It further goes on to classify the condition as pertaining to an individual’s legal rights.
Important aspects of this definition are the words ‘damage/ injury’, ‘judgment/ action’ and ‘disregard’. Both damage and disregard may be considered as a result of the judgment passed by the person practicing prejudice upon the person who is at the receiving end. Research in prejudice (Baron and Bryne, 208-209) shows that such judgments are passed on the basis of stereotypes held and on the basis of the discrimination resulting from the stereotypes. Stereotypes are cognitive shortcuts that people use in order to categorize individuals on the basis of a few characteristics; without paying attention to any other characteristics that may distinguish the particular individual from the group. The stereotypes in themselves are not negative; but may be associated with other negative thoughts about the categories, which are then applied to the particular individual without even ascertaining if the individual deserves to be categorized in this manner. Moghaddam (in Schneider, Gruman and Coutts, 345) defines prejudice as ‘an attitude based solely on group membership’. This definition underlines the fact that an individual’s membership to a particular group is an important aspect of the way people view them; and could bias the attitudes of others if they hold stereotypes about the said group. ...
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