The Neuroscience of Prejudice

Prejudice is rooted in human nature. The human brain has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with its own view. The brain’s natural functioning is to divide objects, people, and ideals into groups. The brain will tend to express a preference for one and a dislike for the other. In other words, the brain is naturally biased to reject others who do not embrace our beliefs.

This “us-versus-them” mentality exists even when the division is arbitrarily assigned. Systematic research by Henri Tajfel, showed that when individuals were randomly placed into different groups, they felt stronger about their own group and tended to feel negatively about other groups, even when issues of religion, sexual identity, and culture were factored out.

It takes additional effort and time to override these biologically-based cognitive biases. By doing so, we can become more open-minded.

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