Where We Live: Roots of Prejudice

Origins of "Us versus Them"

Linda, Creative Commons
Where We Live: Roots of Prejudice
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Where We Live: Roots of Prejudice

Prejudice is one of the more troubling and baffling aspects of human nature

It has been the subject of scientific study for years.  But while social psychologists have learned a great deal about attitudes and societal influences that cause intergroup conflict, little effort has been devoted to understanding how adult humans come to have these biases in the first place.  So a Yale study set out to discover the roots of human prejudice, by studying groups of rhesus monkeys.

The results suggests that our primate cousins have a negative reaction to outsiders – meaning prejudice could have less to do with our environment, culture, even our human-ness.    We’re not taught to judge, by T.V., school, or society at large, but rather we’re biologically hard-wired to.  

Today we’ll talk to the lead psychologist of the study to learn how monkeys can reveal new truths about ourselves. But we can’t all be guilty of harboring prejudiced thoughts -- right? We’ll talk to the developer of the Implicit Association Test which reveals our subconscious stereotypes that can influence attitudes towards gender, race, even reveal our biases towards Coke or Pepsi.  And hear from the developer of UnderstandingPrejudice.org to learn how we can fight this innate urge to judge.




This is a very interesting discovery. It fits well with what seems true of the vast majority of social species, ranging from ants and honey bees to many mammalian species and to song birds. In the latter case, some species have regional song dialects and females shun males who sing the foreign dialect.