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The Acquisition of Prejudice The word prejudice comes from the Latin word pre-judicium which means pre-judgment Without examining a person on his or her own worth one has already adopted a negative attitude that implies a judgment A prejudice is a mixture of beliefs and feelings that predisposes people to respond positively or negatively to members of a particular group Prejudice is defined as a positive or negative attitude based on information or knowledge that is either irrational unrelated to reality or a distortion of fact and that is discriminatorily generalized to all the members of a group As with other attitudes prejudice can be thought of as consisting of three components classical conditioning operant conditioning and cognitive-social learning Classical conditioning is a basic form of learning in which an organism involuntarily learns to associate stimuli A previously neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditioned stimulus to elicit a conditioned response that is identical or very similar to the unconditioned response Classical conditioning is considered to be a main factor in prejudice because the behavior has to be learned The evidence that supports this idea is from the Clark study in the 1930s This study showed that children Caucasian and African American both preferred a white doll and proclaimed the black doll to be bad This response is learned because for some reason white is looked upon as superior and black is a color that symbolizes immorality Although this study was conducted many years ago a follow-up study in the 1980s proved that the majority of children still preferred the white doll Most classical conditioning can be spotted during childhood because many children will learn to respond to stimuli in the same ways as their parents would Very young children who have not yet been conditioned show no preference to either of the dolls Another possible factor may be that one has had a negative experience with a specific group making him
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