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Title: The social and cultural basis of prejudice : a study of national prejudices
Author: McIntyre, Sarah S.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1950
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It may not be out of place in a piece of psychological research to preface one's findings with a little rigorous self-examination. I must admit that the need for this self-probing was not prompted by any great desire on my part for thoroughness in procedure, but was forced upon me throughout the course of my work by people who were anxious to know why I chose this particular topic for investigation. One frank critic even went so far as to ask me if it was a psychological subject at all. Another, with strong psycho-analytical convictions, tentatively attributed my interest to a deep-seated unconscious need within myself to adopt a prejudiced attitude toward other nations. Certainly, it is right and fitting that a research worker should run the gauntlet of such questions. He should be made to give some account of so much time, money, materials and energy expended. But his account need not be given, nor its value assessed, in terms of the immediate availability of his results for utilitarian or practical purposes. It should be sufficient answer if he can show that he has tackled a "trend" question in psychology. In other scientific spheres the problems of the time seem to pose themselves simultaneously to independent workers in widely separated parts of the world. Psychology is no exception to this rule. It, too, has its problems of the day and hour, its prevailing "intellectual climates". What a research worker craves above all else is to acquire the almost infallible, and partly intuitive sense of the direction of current research, that is possessed in a high degree by the outstanding men of science. Vith a lavishness, comparable to that of Mother Nature, the seeds of research seem to be scattered far and wide, in all sorts of unlikely places. Although it would be sheer arrogance for me to claim that the seedling of research that I have tried so carefully to nurture will ever bring forth fruit of reasonable magnitude, I do not think it would be presumptuous to call it a true seed of research, born of the times, a living germ which is well worth attention. My answer, therefore, to all those who would ask why tnis topic should be worth study is this. Psychological science, like any other, has its vanguard, its moving frontiers. It is attractive if somewhat audacious for a mere tyro in the field of research to wish to be in the van. This particular piece of investigation was undertaken, because of its seeming paramount importance, because in its modest way it tries to contribute to the understanding of man's social behaviour in the field of international relations. Workers in every part of the world are engaged in the study of this very problem. Each, in his own way may add something of lasting importance to the vast sum of psychological knowledge. As my final justification I would quote Sorokin, who said, "Topics of research do not drop down from the heavens on a few exceptional souls; they lie in the trend of the times." My objectives in this piece of research can best be expressed firstly in a general, and secondly in a specific form. In its general aspect this research project attempts to deal with the problem of the genesis of prejudice and its relation to the accepted Frustration-Aggression Theory. Specifically, it is limited to a study of one particular type of prejudice, namely the negative attitude known as Ethnic Prejudice in an unselected group of some 850 young people. Scientific soundness demands at this stage a formulation of hypothesis. This is difficult to do in a clear-cut fashion, without a preliminary clearing of theoretical ground. Therefore, I shall reserve the statement of hypothesis for a later point in my argument, in the hope that increasing clarification and crystallization will come about in the course of my developing theory. Without some hypothesis, no orientation is possible in research, and for this reason I have kept in mind already existing theories of prejudice, and have kept a watch on my findings for any facts which would support or refute them. The theory which I have kept most steadily in view is that which states that the formation of prejudice comes about in answer to a definite mental need of the organism, and have amplified this with my own personal conviction that this need may be more sociogenic in its origin than we have been led to believe. In this connection I turn most gratefully for support to Wertheimer, who draws attention to a human need which is so often neglected in psychological studies of all kinds, namely the mental need for clarity or what we might call rational thinking, although Wertheimer in his brilliantly written posthumous volume prefers to call it 'productive thinking'. Many psychologists who at present are chiefly devoting their energies to a study of popular thinking are tending to follow in the wake of Wertheimer, and to revise the older formulation of the normal thought processes as a mere blind tying of stereotyped labels to a collection of superficially related facts. It now seems that far too much emphasis was laid upon the passive and irrational aspects of man's social attitudes. At the present stage of inquiry much is made of the fact that there is constantly taking place in consciousness a process of assimilation of material to existing "frames of reference" the latter being succinctly defined by Krech and Crutchfield as "a term used to denote the functionally related factors (present and past) which operate at the moment to determine the particular properties of the psychological phenomenon, (such as perception, judgment and affectivity) ". This would make allowance for an organised and rational pattern of prejudices.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available