New psychology course to focus on stereotyping and prejudice


Jessica Pellegrino – General Assignment Reporter

The topics of stereotyping, prejudice and profiling pepper newspapers and newscasts every day. But what does it mean to stereotype? What is prejudice? Professor Jessica Suckle-Nelson strives to answer these questions amongst others in her new Psychology course being offered this semester.

The course, “Social Psychology of Stereotypes and Prejudice,” addresses the prevalence of stereotyping and prejudice in society. PSY 227 was recommended as a prerequisite to take the class, but students with a special interest in the subject matter are welcome to take the course.

Suckle-Nelson plans to teach the course in a part lecture, part open discussion style. The class is designed to be a more comprehensive look at stereotyping and prejudice.

“I think it’s an interesting and important topic, so I’ve been happy with students’ interest in it so far,” said Suckle-Nelson. “It’s a more in-depth look at the process of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination in our society. Too many times, in a social psychology course, we only have one week of classes to spend on the stereotyping chapter.”

In an attempt to help potential students understand the goals of the course, Suckle-Nelson explained the differences between stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.

“Stereotyping is a preconceived notion or belief about something or someone based upon their membership in a group, whereas prejudice is a feeling or an emotion someone has about something or someone.  It can be positive or negative,” she said. “It has nothing to do with actions or beliefs and more to do with ‘gut feelings’ or ‘instant emotional reaction.’ Discrimination is prejudice/stereotyping in action.”

The course is not scheduled to run in the spring so this semester may be the only chance students have to take it. Suckle-Nelson said, “I am not sure when it will run again, but we hope to have it again in the next academic year, possibly as a tier 3 course.”

For this class, students will not have to worry about having to purchase a bulky psychology text.

“This semester, I really couldn’t find a book I liked, which means students are going to be reading experiments and review articles on the various topics,” Suckle-Nelson said.

According to Suckle-Nelson, the class will cover a broad range of topics relating to stereotyping and prejudice.

“While we will discuss the topics of sexism and racism, these two topics are discussed in many different courses,” she said.  “Therefore, this course is going to explore the lesser-known and understood stereotypes of other groups. Thus, we will be examining ageism, sexual discrimination (discrimination based on sexual orientation), weight-ism, religion, able-bodyism (discrimination based upon one’s disabilities), mental health, and possibly violence (discrimination based upon one’s experience as victim or perpetrator),”

The course will involve a variety of projects which Suckle-Nelson is excited to instruct.

“There are no exams, but there are weekly writing assignments and papers, and I am a grammar-witch,” she said. “There are no revisions involved, so there’s no basis for it to be a W course. Also, after the first couple of weeks, the course will become more discussion-based as we begin specific topics.  Students are expected not only to participate in the discussion but also to lead the discussion for at least one article over the course of the semester.”

Photo Credit: Staff Photo

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