Prejudice is one of the more controversial topics in today's society. You probably know what prejudice is, at least when it affects people of different races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and so on. For example, some people hold mistaken and hateful beliefs about Jews, or about African-Americans. Some boys think that girls are dumb when it comes to math. These are all examples of prejudice, which can lead to discrimination.
Gordon Allport, a psychologist that taught at Harvard University, refers to prejudice as "being down on somebody you're not up on." The type most of us think of when we hear the word prejudice is negative prejudice. Allport, however, talks about another type of prejudice most of us seldom think of: positive prejudice.
Allport defines positive prejudice as "being in favor of our children, our neighborhood, or our college." Allport has a right to be concerned with positive prejudice because its actions can be just as harmful as negative prejudice. For example, if a mother of two praised the oldest child as "being able to do anything," this would leave the youngest child with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and poor motivation to fulfill his/her own potential.
I agree with Allport's concern over positive prejudice, but where does it come from? Is it on the whole a force for good?
Positive prejudice happens when we develop preferences that tend to distort any new information to support those preferences and to discount subsequent data that doesn't. We hear only what we want to hear. It happens when I decide what car I'm going to buy based on looks, then go out and find impartial reviews that support my decision.
I don't believe that everyone intentionally imposes positive prejudice negatively; it just happens. There are many examples of positive prejudice that are commendable, such as Sesame Street. Critics have endlessly praised ...