affectively based attitudes

Sexual Harassment is not Cool!

In my attitude change project, I will be targeting young boys between the ages of 8-12 to try to alter their attitudes towards sexual harassment.  I will mainly use the central route to persuasion as it has a more lasting effect in terms of attitude and behavioral change. The program includes a lot of different activities, videos and movies that create an engaging setting for children to grasp their attention. Each video and activity is aimed to target a particular set of attitudes, either cognitively based attitudes, affectively based attitudes or cognitively based attitudes. For example, the movie La Mo’akhza will be screened to target the children’s affectively based attitudes as they empathize with the teacher being sexually harassed. Consequently, according to the empathy-altruism hypothesis, they will learn to help women or girls who are being sexually harassed. This particular video is self produced and it focuses on changing children’s cognitively based attitudes towards sexual harassment. It depicts a group of friends in which the “cool” kid sexually harasses, and although his friends think it is wrong, they do nothing about it. However, on a given day, their friend Beethoven is present and he stands up for the girl being harassed, and explains to Chris that what he is doing is wrong. The video ends with Beethoven’s name being chanted, while “Say No to Sexual Harassment” appears on the screen. The video itself is self explanatory but the attitude change is more dependent upon the discussion that ensues. Simplistic explanations of the bystander effect and conformity will follow, guiding the students on how they should act in certain situations where sexual harassment takes place. Furthermore, the video highlights how the children’s descriptive norms are not true. The video is one part of a complex program that will hopefully change children’s cognition and construal of harassment and decrease sexual harassment rates in Egypt in the near future.

But aren’t religious people boring?

            Although I come from a somewhat conservative household, I used to hold a prejudice against religious people. In my mind, I’d stereotyped them as close-minded individuals, whose company is boring and religion-based. I gave no controlled thinking to the idea of individual differences, and instead, I automatically and unconsciously “grouped” being”religious” (whatever that even means) to being isolated, dissatisfied and unmotivated. I guess my attitude of grouping aligned with the Implicit Personality Theory. So anyways, I created several illusory correlations between devout individuals and certain traits. For example, I thought religious people were boring; and so, when I would interact with them, I would remain extremely silent and I would give one word answers. Not only was that a form of discrimination, but it was also a portrayal of the self-fulfilling prophecy: When people act towards others in a way that conforms their expectations of those people. Also, since some of the people were unaware of the existence of a stereotype threat, they would go on and on about God and their beliefs; I would use those conversations to confirm my stereotype.

           Further amplifying my prejudice was perhaps the institutional discrimination that I observed at my school. There wasn’t really any institutional sexism, but it was more of discrimination against religious people. Most of the teachers employed were open-minded, and those who weren’t were either treated poorly and left, or they would give in to normative conformity. Most of them would change the way they dressed a little bit and they would carefully avoid certain topics of discussion. There was actually a religious girl with us who was the students’ scapegoat in a way, since any frustration or anger would be taken out on her, until she too changed her style of clothing, and became very cautious around people. Since I saw the same actions from those I interacted with, I strongly began to believe in out-group homogeneity. Eventually, that led to the ultimate attribution error, which in this case, was prejudice against anyone who publicly discussed religious matters. Despite all of these attitudes, however, I still displayed perfectly modern racism. I had not allowed myself to discriminate in any extreme or harmful way that would disclaim my “I’m unprejudiced” attitude.

               One day however, I experienced mutual interdependence with extremely religious people, and although I was initially unwilling to be myself around them, I did not really have a choice. As our beneficial relationship continued, I was “shocked” at how alike we actually were; people didn’t necessarily have to be part of my in-group for us to share beliefs and ideas. As a result, I began to question my affectively based attitudes and stereotypes about religious people in a cognitive and controlled manner, and I understood how illogical my stereotypes were. Moreover, I realized that my correlations were extremely biased since my schematic definition of religious people was based on their attire, but what about religious individuals who don’t necessarily wear a veil or a abayah? And what about people who are veiled but aren’t religious? And what is “religious” anyway?

Below are images of stereotypes and discrimination in different parts of the world.

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