What are prejudices? They are irrational, subconscious expectations we inherit from our environment and by which we allow ourselves to be conditioned, sometimes with disastrous consequences. After all, their influence on our way of seeing others is well known. Less well known is their influence on those who are its victims, particularly in their tendency to be self-fulfilling.
Let me explain. If someone feels you don’t have a certain skill, it’s more than likely that you will end up never having it. A study conducted by the University of Kent on groups of primary school children reveals this. According to the study, the stereotype according to which females are more able than males has a negative impact on the exam results of the latter. Conversely, reassuring children that there is no difference between them can help to redress the gap.
Naturally, these dynamics also hold true in the case of adults: we all feed off the way we are perceived by others. Therefore, particularly in a multi-ethnic society, it’s essential to keep prejudices under control, as well as the stereotypical expectations we project externally. If not, we risk precluding some of the great opportunities that diversity can bring us and triggering a negative spiral, in which prejudices that may have only existed in our imaginations become a reality.