The enduring disciplinary interest in prejudice, discrimination, and racism (Reicher, 2012) stems from associations with some of our more inhumane treatments of others, with prejudicial assumptions underpinning the abominations of slavery, genocide, and the pernicious effects of colonisation (Tuffin, 2008). Social psychological knowledge already extends to the unquestioned complexity involved in making negative judgements about others, and we know prejudice can rest on matters that are deep seated and are resistant to change. The most well-known prejudices target people of different colour, culture, gender, or age and correspond to the key ‘isms’: racism, sexism, and ageism. Prejudice can also be organised on the basis of dislike or mistrust of characteristics like height, weight, disability, religion, education, political affiliation, and occupation. The list also includes more trivial bases such as looks, clothing, hair colour, tattoos, and body piercings, what we drink, what we eat, and who we associate with.
The vast range of characteristics on which negative judgements can be based is impressive; however, the gravity of these judgements and their history is even more impressive. The sheer depth of ill feeling towards others argues for the importance of this topic as a site for intellectual enquiry. While prejudices range from the trivial to the profound, they are pervasive in society, and for this reason, the importance of studying these matters cannot be overstated. McKinlay and McVitie (2008) suggest prejudice constitutes one of society’s
K. Tuffin (*)
Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
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B. Gough (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Social Psychology,
greatest problems, and it is much studied since it represents a major challenge for contemporary society. Similarly, Blackwell, Smith, and Sorenson (2008) argue that one of the most important tasks for social researchers is to expose the bases on which the culture of prejudice is founded. Understanding the complex dynamics of prejudice is one of the most difficult and yet important challenges. Reicher (2001) also talks about the importance of this when suggesting that doing this well will contribute to the fight against racism (as an illustrative prejudice), and not doing this well means we may fail our academic, social, and moral responsibilities.