Prejudice and discrimination in Argentina

By Paula Bria and Agustina Pesce (Universidad Buenos Aires)

The study of conflictive intergroup relationships and the difficulties in providing equal opportunities to all groups in our societies has a long history in the Political and Social Psychology field. This can be spotted in the large literature and complexity of prejudice and discrimination conceptualizations (Dovidio et al., 2010; Glick & Fiske, 2011). But: have these progresses helped in the development of possible interventions to reduce these negative outcomes?

Since Allport’s notable contribution defining prejudice as an antipathy based on a flawed and inflexible generalization (Allport, 1954), some nuances have been remarked. For instance, the sexism theory has stressed how attitudes sometimes interpreted as protective -like chivalry-, can be understood as condescending (Glick & Fiske, 1996). This has come to a turning point in the sexism theory which is nowadays mostly studied as a bidimensional construct that includes a hostile as well as benevolent -or condescending- form. Likewise, the acknowledgement of more subtle measures of prejudice, has thrown light to a greater array of prejudice forms that take place in our societies (Brewer, 2017; Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995).

Having these developments into account, prejudice can be described as an attitude toward a group which encourages the maintenance of social hierarchies (Dovidio et al., 2010). In the same spirit, discrimination has been defined as an inappropriate and potentially unfair treatment toward people for being part of a certain group (Hammond & Overall, 2017), and implies a denial for equal treatment. The change in the concepts’ definitions imply a different focus from the qualities of the attitude or behaviour to their consequences, widening the scope of the field.

In order to assess how these phenomena happen in Argentina, we conducted an online survey in August 2020 -during the COVID-19 winter lockdown-. The study involved 1534 people living in different regions of the Argentine Republic, female, male and non-binary gender, aged between 18 and 75. They had to indicate the degree of agreement with sentences in reference to various types of prejudice (e.g. Ambivalent Sexism, Attitudes toward Gay people)1.

The figure below illustrates that, among the different forms of prejudice investigated, the highest levels are observed in prejudice towards Latin American immigrants, followed by prejudice towards people with mental disabilities and sexist prejudice -in its hostile and benevolent forms-. These results show that prejudice should still be a matter of concern in Argentina.

Figure 1. Levels of prejudice towards different social groups in Argentina

The answers to the scales’ items show that the attribution of blame to Latin American immigrants who are not in a good economic position still prevail combined with the distrust on the values and norms they follow. These prejudices may impact the most received migrants in Argentina that come from Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Perú (INDEC, 2011) and more recently people from Venezuela (IOM, 2019). Regarding people with a mental disability the results show that this is a group vulnerable to be classified as a burden to their family and with big difficulties in having a “normal social life”. Finally, in the case of sexism, women are many times considered easy to get offended and in need of protection from a man. It is important to highlight that, although Argentinians seem less prejudiced against some of the groups in our research, medium and low levels of prejudice are still troubling to promote equal opportunities to all members of society.

Bearing these outcomes in mind, the question arises as to how it would be possible to lower prejudice in our context. Although research in Psychology carried until today cannot provide a straightforward answer to this problem (Paluck et al., 2020), there are some empirically tested paths to diminish prejudice. In this research we tested the relation between prejudice and the intergroup contact (Figure 2) (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006) as well as the participants’ levels of empathy (Figure 3) (Miklikowska, 2018).

Figure 2. Levels of prejudice depending on contact with the groups

For the overall expressions of prejudice, it was observed that the greater the intergroup contact, the lower the levels of prejudice. Similar results were found in relation to empathy. As for discrimination, four out of ten Argentines claim to have experienced some kind of discrimination during the last year.

Figure 3. Levels of prejudice depending on empathy levels

According to the results in the present study, it is relevant to keep on researching on different expressions of prejudice, assuming the challenge that implies not only to know about the subject but also to develop initiatives to promote its reduction. In this sense, even though it is important to know the actual status of the levels of prejudice and discrimination through empirical data, the study of interventions and the results of the promotion of strategies like interaction with “different” people, empathy, avoiding generalizations, recognizing of own emotional states and prejudices are essential to reduce these phenomena.

Note: The levels of prejudice were evaluated from 1 to 10, where 1 = Not at all prejudiced and 10 = Absolutely prejudiced. All Figures are adapted from Etchezahar, E., Ungaretti, J., Bria, M. P. y Pesce, A. (2020). Prejuicio y discriminación en Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Observatorio de Psicología Social Aplicada, Facultad de Psicología, Universidad de Buenos Aires.

About the Authors

Paula Bria is a PhD student in the Faculty of Psychology at University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and a Teaching Assistant in the Social Psychology subject of the undergraduate degree. Her research focuses on prejudice and social attitudes as Ambivalent Sexism and its relation with other issues like feminism and harassment.

Agustina Pesce is a PhD student in the Faculty of Psychology at University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and a Teaching Assistant in the Social Psychology course of that university. Her research interests lie in the topics of prejudice, prejudice reduction and gender fair language.

About the ISPP & its Blog

The International Society of Political Psychology is an interdisciplinary organization representing all fields of inquiry concerned with exploring the relationships between political and psychological processes. If you are interested in contributing an article or have any questions about the blog, please email them or visit the ISPP Blog’s webpage.


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