What Is Tolerance? - Definition, Types & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

In this lesson you will learn what tolerance is and how it weaves itself throughout our society. Also, you will gain an understanding of how tolerance is used in many different areas of life from a personal perspective to a national perspective.

What is Tolerance?

Take a moment to think about your lifestyle: your behaviors, actions, thoughts, and environment. Now think about someone else's. Chances are there are some aspects of other people's lives which annoy you. Many people are surrounded by others who appear to be 'incompetent' and 'annoying'. Understanding tolerance can help shift our attitudes toward others, leading us to a more productive and happy life.

Tolerance can be defined as a fair and objective attitude towards those whose lifestyle differs from yours. The level of tolerance in your life can be attributed to levels of happiness and contentment, as many researchers have pointed out; however, the same researchers appear to struggle when examining paradoxical questions such as, 'are tolerant people more happy, or are happy people more tolerant?'

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  • 0:01 What Is Tolerance?
  • 0:48 Tolerance and the Human Brain
  • 2:20 Types of Tolerance
  • 3:28 Lesson Summary
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Tolerance can work in conjunction with different pathways of the brain.

Tolerance and the Human Brain

In order to understand these questions from a psychological perspective, let's put tolerance into an easier perspective and learn how it interacts within the subject of human behavior. The average adult human brain weighs approximately three pounds and is approximately 15 centimeters long. The brain is considered the powerhouse of the human body, telling every other part of the body what to do and when to do it. On average, a human brain has the capacity of producing billions of thought processes per second, of which only around 2,000 are brought into awareness. This means that humans have the capacity to act and behave differently in all areas of their lives, bringing about upsetting and uncomfortable feelings in others.

So why discuss brain activity? Discussing brain activity allows us to gain a perspective on how important tolerance is in our lives and how common it can be for other people to focus differently on sensitive lifestyle choices. Views on education, religion, and politics are just three of the many areas of our lives that may differ from individual to individual, causing friction between differing viewpoints.

For example, say you are studying college classes and gaining an understanding on different topics from different perspectives and professionals. How would it feel if someone you knew, who had no prior education or understanding of a topic, tells you that you don't understand the topic, especially after you went through a course and passed an exam? Clearly you could feel angry or frustrated. When facing adversity, tolerance allows us to sit back and objectively understand where another person is coming from in regards to their behaviors, thoughts, and other processes.

Tolerance can occur on many different levels.

Types of Tolerance

Although we have so far focused on personal tolerance, there are other types of tolerance that occur at the community, state, and national levels. For example, we can have tolerance for individuals within our community, state, or country whose ideologies differ widely from our own.

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