By Rick Nauert, Ph.D.
Excerpt: Scientists believe a coping strategy for people with low self-esteem is to degrade other people, which improves how such people see themselves.
A new study published in the journal Psychological Science evaluates this premise and suggests that in some cases, low-esteem may be the cause of prejudice.
“This is one of the oldest accounts of why people stereotype and have prejudice: It makes us feel better about ourselves,” said Jeffrey Sherman of the University of California, Davis, who wrote the study with Thomas Allen.
“When we feel bad about ourselves, we can denigrate other people, and that makes us feel better about ourselves.”
“If the problem was that people were having trouble inhibiting bias, you might try to train people to exert better control,” he said.
But his results suggest that’s not the issue. “The issue is that our mind wanders to more negative aspects of other groups. The way around that is to try and think differently about other people.
“When you feel bad about yourself and catch yourself thinking negatively about other groups, remind yourself, ‘I may be feeling this way because I just failed a test or something.’”
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