Prejudice, Discrimination & Stereotypes: Definitions & Examples

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  • 0:02 Differences
  • 1:04 Stereotypes
  • 2:12 Prejudice
  • 3:10 Discrimination
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

There are many different types of people in the world. What happens when one person thinks or feels a certain way about an entire group of people? Watch this lesson to find out about stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.


This is Eddie. He's a vegetarian. This is Eddie's co-worker Jeff. There are few things in life that he loves more than a hamburger. When Jeff and Eddie meet, they have all sorts of ideas about each other. Some of them are true, and some are just based on stereotypes and prejudice.

People belong to certain groups. Whether that group is racial, gender-based, or something like what a person chooses to eat, everyone belongs to at least one group. Being part of a group is not all that there is to a person. For example, Eddie isn't just a vegetarian, he loves rock music and plays in a band on the weekends.

But sometimes, people can be judged based on the fact that they are in a group. For example, Jeff thinks that vegetarians all listen to sitar music and nothing else. But Eddie isn't even sure what a sitar is! Let's look closer at how people judge others based on their group affiliation through stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination.


So, Jeff thinks that vegetarians like sitar music. He has a picture in his head about what a vegetarian is like, and sitar music is included in it. A belief about a certain group of people is called a stereotype. Stereotypes can be positive or negative, but are usually an exaggerated idea of what a group is like.

For example, Jeff thinks that vegetarians are healthy and peace-loving. Those are positive stereotypes because they reflect well on the group. On the other hand, he also thinks that vegetarians are pedantic and holier-than-thou, which are negative stereotypes. Eddie thinks that meat eaters are all strong, due to all the protein they eat - that's a positive stereotype. But he also thinks that they don't care about the environment, which is a negative stereotype.

Both positive and negative stereotypes can have a negative effect on a person. For example, one racial stereotype is that Asian students are really good at math. This is a positive stereotype, but it can make an Asian student feel pressure and feel like a failure if he isn't good at math, which is a negative outcome.


Stereotypes are exaggerated beliefs about a group of people. But, what happens when someone takes it a step further and applies the stereotype to a specific person?

Prejudice is a feeling towards a person based on their affiliation with a group. For example, Eddie thinks that meat eaters don't care about the environment, which is (as we've already seen) a stereotype. But if he decides that he doesn't like Jeff just based on the fact that Jeff eats meat, then he is being prejudiced. His feeling of dislike, which springs from his belief in a negative stereotype, is prejudice.

As with stereotypes, prejudice can be either positive or negative. For example, Jeff can decide that he really likes vegetarians or he can decide that he really doesn't like vegetarians. If he likes them, it is a positive prejudice, whereas if he doesn't like them, it is a negative prejudice.


Let's say that Jeff and Eddie don't like each other because of their culinary preferences. They can still manage to get along at work and act okay around each other. They might not even know that the other person doesn't like them. They'd still be prejudiced, but they'd hide it.

But, what happens when prejudice influences a person's behavior? An action that denies the rights of a person due to their membership in a group is called discrimination. For example, Jeff and Eddie work at an animal rights organization. If their boss decides that meat eaters should not be promoted, and promotes Eddie instead of Jeff just because Eddie is a vegetarian, he is discriminating against Jeff. His action of denying Jeff a promotion due to the fact that Jeff is a meat eater is discrimination.

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