self-fulfilling prophecy

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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BLOOD INDIANS

 

We are in a parallel universe. There is neither an evolutionary approach to explain sex differences, nor does psychological essentialism exist. In this universe, our universe, gender roles are reversed; gendered division of labour is in favor of women, where they are more dominant and hold most positions of power. They have an immense social influence on men’s construal and on all societal structures in general. In fact, the president and her secretariats were just discussing yesterday the possibility of enlisting men in the army! They believe that it is a decision that will raise men’s self-esteem and one that will not limit gender stereotypes to personality traits; in other words, a decision that will encourage elaboration. But can you imagine! Men in the army!!! I also heard the other day, that some factories have started manufacturing trucks for boys to replace their barbies! How ludicrous! Is someone trying to change our gender schemas here?

Whats going on? Hasn’t there always been high consensus towards a social hierarchy with women superior to men? Maybe it’s this new movement known as the male rights movements. I know, I thought it was strange too! I mean, doesn’t the stereotype emphasize that men should only be househusbands? They need to be home to take care of the kids and to do the cooking! Nevertheless, menists are using the most absurd defensive attributions like, “But the only reason we are househusbands is because of the self-fulfilling prophecy! Its not our fault!”  Huh? If thats actually true, shouldn’t they try to prove “us” wrong? Assuming of course that there’s an us and a them here. Even if they tried to prove us wrong though, what good could they be in the “outside world”? They’re all the same, anyway!

Oh wait, that’s the out-group homogeneity effect! Well, maybe they’re a little diverse; after all, some men do curl their hair better than others and they kind of get creative with nail polish! Yet, I still can’t help but conform to gender classifications, for when I automatically think of men, I think….househusband! There is even cross-cultural agreement on that. I have a thought, though. If categorization is based on roles and functions, which are affected by the self-fulfilling prophecy, then that means that by creating gender clusters, subtypes, and schemas we cause people to act in a way that coincides with our original categorization. It is all a cycle then, where our actions and beliefs of a certain person cause him to act the way we think he will, therefore, reinforcing the original stereotype. I guess that is the basis of the social role theory, which suggests that characteristics pertaining to gender, are rooted in social roles and occupations. Nonetheless, there are definitely some cases of gender deviance, such as the man who tried to run for president before! That was surely odd; however, we’re very unlikely to disconfirm our idea of gender roles based on a few exceptions.

On the contrary, some Psychologists have been trying to prove that instead of the two fundamental modalities (where men must have extremely high communal competence and women are high on agentic competence), men are now increasingly more competitive and independent, while women are developing emotional and interdependent qualities. What’s up with these Psychologists? I swear, its like the second we get all our heuristics in order, they have to come up with a new study! They’re trying to hint that we should be gender blind, you know, promoting equality and supporting the male rights movement and all. They should know that being gender blind is impossible! We’ve already been conditioned and primed to believe in stereotypes. The furthest we can go is perhaps encapsulation and evaluation, where we learn to create and perceive subtypes that contain “exceptions to the rule.” But who sets the rules, and what are considered exceptions?

According to the cultural approach and social learning theory, gender is the byproduct of a social structure that encourages a specific way of gender socialization; children observe specific gender expectations and begin to fulfill them. For instance,  daughters accompany their mother’s to football matches, and so, they grow up with the notion that girls must watch football. Similarly, boys who watch their father’s cook, do the laundry and dishes, learn by default that they should grow up and do the same. As a result of years of this kind of observational learning, no controlled thinking is really required when we later “perform gender.” Not only that, but the way we perceive ourselves is also affected. Girls will usually develop a growth mindset and a strong self-serving bias, because of the positive external stimuli that they are receiving. On the other hand, due to society’s constant pressures, boys are very likely to have extremely low self-esteem. The fact that boys are expected to starve themselves to be “perfect” and how they are considered “objects” to be used, are factors that contribute to their fixed mindset; they believe that their qualities cannot be cultivated.

Before we go back to reality, here are some pictures of our parallel universe.

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Now, lets go to a different kind of reality, or perhaps a parallel universe in our own world: Blood Indians who reside in Alberta, Calgary.

They are a people whose culture has adopted very similar gender socialization to our parallel universe; their women are the primary providers for the family, while their men stay at home to take care of the kids. About eighty percent of Blood men are unemployed and when asked who the provider is, they agree that it is the woman. However, it would be a major fundamental attribution error to assume that Blood Indians are intrinsically motivated to lead this kind of lifestyle, for it is the situation that is in control. The reversal of gender roles is due to the high education rates of Blood women that allow them to obtain jobs, and it is not because of a particular social structure. It is not a surprise then, to learn that women still stick to “feminine” activities such as knitting and cooking, while men lose their self-esteem and resort to alcohol and physical abuse. It is here that the evolutionary approach provides the most sufficient explanation, as it claims that sex differences are biologically based. Accordingly, when Blood Indians were given the chance to reverse roles and ignore any kind of gender schemas, both men and women still went back to their “natural” preferences.

Perhaps the evolutionary approach gives a valid explanation, but it would make no major difference to understand why we live in a patriarchal society if there was no chance for that to change. Shouldn’t the question then be, whether it is possible for our parallel universe to one day be a reality? Could the Blood Indians be the initiators of that world, or are they merely the last people to adjust to the gender-based hierarchy that is in favor of men?

Here are a few images of the Blood Indians.

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