How can there be true genuine rejection of prejudice if statistics show certain properties emerging more significantly from some races or groups ?
By prejudice i mean the inner mind event of pre-evaluating and pre-judging the outcome of an event or the characteristics of some person based on statistics, before getting to know the facts. And at the same time, i hold the the acts of an individual can be controlled by free-will not to conform his inner mind event, aka not acting according to prejudice.

By being partially guided by statistics ( something every rational being should do ), don't we automatically get estimulated to hold prejudice ( something which is held as negative by humanitarians, mostly ) ?

For instance, in my country being black is a lot more correlated to stealing than otherwise ( purely statistics ), but rather than being some racial charateristic, i truly believe it is a historical reason.
In that case, should we really avoid the inner thought that if you are gonna be robbed it has some higher percentage that is gonna be by someone black ? That inner thought is equal to the caution and knowledge that can maximize the chances of your survival.

So, even tho we should fight for equal rights, should we really fight for no prejudice if Statistics show us otherwise ?

It's the same as being thrown into the room of someone you never knew and start thinking and pre-judging about how that person would be ( the facts about his gender, weigth, heigth, musical style, etc ). I see no problem in that prejudice as long as it doesn't turn into anger and hate towards the person based on what you prejudged.

Why people say prejudice is bad ?


You are making a moral point I guess, which is: "why should we completely reject what is referred as prejudice, if it is a probabilistic guess based on statistical data".

I think I can see your point clearly.

Let's reformulate it for an event which does not require any morality, for example: the throw of a 6 faces unbalanced die. Let's assume the die is made in a way that you can not know the real probability of every number as an outcome, but you have the following statistics:

1000000 throws,

  1. 5%
  2. 6%
  3. 16%
  4. 67%
  5. 3%
  6. 3%

If you had to bet any money on the outcome, anyone that is able to see these statistics and know they are actually trustful, will point the money on number 4. No one will ever say: "Hey, what is this prejudice, we should also point money on other number because it is moral".

Let's translate the above back to the black/stealing example, and assume we have these statistics about thieves (i am giving random numbers):

  • black: 60%
  • white: 40%

With the same reasoning, for the next thief that will be brought to jail, one could make a bet on whether s/he is black or white, and based on the above statistics, I would bet on black.

So what about all these fighting prejudice? That is probably another story.

There are many ways of interpreting the sentence "fighting prejudice", I will try and think about some of them:

First representative one is the one about misunderstandings and false assumptions. For example, let's say that you have the above statistics, and you randomly take a black person, citizen of the U.S.

Would you bet money on the fact that he is a thief?

If you would that would be a false assumption, because you assume that the probability of a black person to be thief is more than 50%, which can not be deduced by the above statistics. The percentage could be arbitrarily small (5% for example).

This is a common mathematical error that people easily do, and this kind of thing should be fought, because it is just mathematically wrong.

The second fight is against the mental process that changes a probability to 'certainty'.

This is more a psychological issue rather than a logical one, but it happens quite often that people, relying on the above statistics (let's even assume that the probability of a black being a thief is more than 50%), transform this statistical data into a full-generalization ("every single black person on earth is in reality a thief"). This should be fought as well because it is arbitrary.

Third fight to be done is a moral issue that might be claimed, which is:

Let's pretend you were born in a world where everyone who has the same skin color as you (let's say, green) is also a thief, except for a minority (say 3%) which includes you. You, on the other hand, did never steal anything in your entire life and can not explain to yourself why other greens have to steal at all.

In this case:

  • Is it morally correct to you that a person that meets you for the first time probably thinks of you as a thief?
  • Shouldn't be it more correct that you were given the benefit of the doubt? If it were me, I would probably ask for a par-conditio (50%/50%), because it is not my fault that other greens steal, I am myself and I am extraneous to the process.

For this 3 types interpretation, I think "fighting the prejudice" is morally correct. I do not think though, that it can be achieved by completely throwing away useful statistical information, that can be always used to predict probabilities of similar events, and only for that.


Apparently rational behavior doesn't always yield optimal outcomes in social situations. The Prisoner's Dilemma is perhaps the best example of this: both actors acting rationally will yield worse outcomes than both acting "irrationally" (i.e. what would be irrational in the absence of some coordination mechanism).

One could very well recommend that people act non-prejudicial if receiving prejudice causes the very problems that are at issue (e.g. assuming guilt may cause the unfairly accused to actually commit crimes, as they're already suffering the consequences without the benefits). This sort of issue (when do you recommend acting as-if-X, even if X isn't quite true) comes up all the time in rule utilitarianism.

One could also deem that the impact of receiving prejudice (i.e. treatment that is unjustified) is, across society, worse than the impact of being unable to adjust to knowable changes in probability distribution (e.g. how likely are you to be mugged). Again, the utilitarian would not necessarily recommend the "rational" course of action.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't notice the correlations. (Some people seem to go that far.) Just that you shouldn't act on (most of) them.

The problem with prejudice is that you don't actually know that your suspicions are valid in any particular case (by definition), and acting on false suspicions can cause considerable harm. Many ethical systems take a dim view of causing harm on the basis of a falsehood.

  • A core issue is here is that i'm considering prejudice as merely in that "noticing", which is mostly automatic and not controllabe. I'm not telling in any way that the actions of the one who just had prejudice should be negative and according to statistics. I'm pointing out that trying to eliminate the prejudice should be done indirectly by fightings its causes, not the prejudice ( as in the automatic "noticing" ) which is truly inevitable for anone with knowledge of the statistics database. – nerdy Apr 17 '15 at 19:06

Should we really fight for no prejudice?

Prejudice isn't bad or good, it is in our social psychology nature of social animals. People search for justification for disliking an out group, and use that justification to avoid negative feelings (cognitive dissonance) about themselves when they act on their dislike of the out group. Negative evaluation prejudice is when the disliking is of the others. The fact that it will always makes sense to say "it is prejudiced, but maybe good", will immediately show that the definition good in terms in a life without prejudice of has failed.

Prejudice is a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their group membership.

Individuals operate in a group-based context where group memberships form a part of individual identity. When voluntary study participants are assigned into groups based on something as trivial as a coin toss, participants exhibit in group favoritism, giving preferential treatment to in-group members. There is the perception that members of an out group are more similar, homogenous, with negative evaluation in general, than members of the in group. Competition between limited resources leads to increased negative prejudices and discrimination and are lessened after groups are forced to cooperate on tasks to achieve a common goal.

A society can be viewed as group-based hierarchies. In competition for scarce resources such as housing or employment, dominant groups create prejudiced legitimizing myths to provide moral and intellectual justification for their dominant position over other groups and validate their claim over the limited resources. Legitimizing myths, such as discriminatory hiring practices or biased merit norms, work to maintain these prejudiced hierarchies. Out group prejudice and discrimination is caused when individuals perceive an out group to be threatening in some way: competition for a natural resource or a threat to income, perceived difference in cultural values between groups or a perceived imbalance of power, threat to comfortable interactions, anticipation of negative behavior from out group members in line with the perceived stereotype. In group members attribute negative out group behavior to permanent and in control own causes more than they would for identical in group behavior, and attribute positive out group behavior to one or more to permanent out own control causes as fluke or exceptional case, luck or special advantage, situational factors.

Reference and some texts from Wikipedia

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    Please be more specific about the references. What can be found where? I presume some is taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prejudice, but please be specific about what came from where (and, implicitly, what is "your own"). That would make it easier to look it up and see if there is a discussion about it and what the viewpoints are. – user3164 Aug 7 '13 at 17:37
  • @Gugg There are paraphrases mixed with my phrases. Where my interpretation begins and where begins the original text of Wikipedia would be cause for another post of philosophical exegesis. I have already cited the source for the interested in this exegesis. – Annotations Aug 7 '13 at 17:48
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    -1 Notwithstanding content, I, tentatively, don't agree with that way of posting answers. – user3164 Aug 7 '13 at 18:12
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    That seems something that might be better discussed on meta or chat. – user3164 Aug 7 '13 at 18:40
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    -1 I agree with @Gugg. Also, re-use without attribution to the WP article is not cool - "There are many reusers of Wikipedia's content, and more are welcome. If you want to use Wikipedia's text materials in your own books/articles/web sites or other publications, you can generally do so, but you must comply with one of the licenses that Wikipedia's text is licensed under." – DBK Aug 7 '13 at 22:54

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