Sunday, February 20, 2005

Psychology of Discrimination

In recent weeks the topic of gay rights has become one of the dominant issues on Canadian blogs. Until now, the question has been whether or not same sex marriage should be legalized. However, critical to that discussion is whether or not preventing homosexuals from getting married would be a form of discrimination. Critics of the legislation have claimed that since they would still be granted human equal rights, it does not represent a form of discrimination. Recent research into the psychology of discrimination suggests otherwise.

While the public only knows one form of discrimination and racism, psychologists have long been aware of a second and even more dangerous form of prejudice: averse (or ambivalent) discrimination. Gaertner and Dovidio did the most famous study on averse racism and the findings were presented in the book Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism.

People who display averse discrimination are not the kind of people we generally view as prejudiced. They value equality and their prejudice is hidden almost all the time, only appearing when there is a non-prejudiced explanation for their actions or when social norms allow for it. That is, they will act in a discriminatory manner when around others who are acting the same way, or when they can blame their discrimination on other factors. Dovidio and Gaertner performed numerous experiments which showed that a large part of the population displayed racist (their experiments focused on African-Americans) tendencies under these circumstances.

Marilyn Brewer of UC Santa Barbara authored another study which is critical in this situation, In-Group Bias in the Minimal Intergroup Situation. Brewer found the tendency amongst prejudiced people was not towards out-group bias, but rather in-group favouritism. In other words, bigots do not try to take away rights from subordinate groups, but rather seek to give themselves privileges that the subgroups don’t enjoy.

Opponents of gay marriage have reasons to justify their beliefs and they have supporters across the nation. They can even claim that they’re offering gays the exact same rights as they have, just with a different name. They can say whatever they want, as far as psychologists are concerned they’re prejudiced bigots.


Blogger David Wozney said...

The existing lawful opposite-sex definition of marriage applies equally to every person in Canada no matter what his or her sexual orientation is.

Every individual is equal before and under the existing opposite-sex-definition marriage law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the existing opposite-sex-definition marriage law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.

The Lawful Definition of Marriage in Canada

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