Stigma and Prejudice

One Animal or Two?

Despite ongoing efforts to bridge the constructs of stigma and prejudice in theory and research, there has not been a comparison of the conceptual models of stigma and prejudice.

The current article presents an analysis of 18 conceptual models of prejudice and stigma. The authors coded each model across a number of dimensions and compared the models looking for commonalities and distinctions between them.

Key Findings:                       

  • Stigma models tend to focus on targets while prejudice models address processes for perpetrators and individual discriminatory actions. There is a great deal of overlap between the two types of models.
  • Stigma models are usually concerned with individual-level characteristics, such as with illness or identity deviance. Prejudice models usually emphasize group-level characteristics, such as race.
  • The function of stigma and prejudice are social processes of exploitation/domination (keeping people down), enforcing social norms (keeping people in), and disease avoidance (keeping people away).

Although there are unique aspects to each, the current analysis indicates that theory and research about stigma and prejudice reflects a “single animal.” Efforts to reduce stigma and prejudice could benefit from paying attention to the function that these processes serve and the characteristics of targets.