Prejudice and Bogardus Social Distance Scale

“I wish to go to another country because they will help me with my future and my son’s future. I will go to any place. I want to go somewhere where I will not have to rely on handouts at all.”

-Nadia, a 47-year-old Syrian woman

“I think we should help, but I think we should be very careful because frankly, we have very big problems. We cannot help everybody through the world.”

-Donald Trump

Gordon Allport was an American psychologist who is known for his contribution to personality psychology. Prejudice was one of the areas of interest to him. He defined prejudice as “a feeling, favourable or unfavourable, toward a person or thing, prior to, or not based on, actual experience”.

What is important in definition is the last part “not based on actual experience”. In case of prejudice a person makes his opinion without actual experience.

Most Europeans have never visited Syria and hence have no actual experience of what kind of people Syrians are. But they form opinion based on what gets reported in media or based on propaganda of interest groups. People who hate Syrians are not more knowledgeable than people who welcome them.


To understand psychology of people, sociologist Emory S. Bogardus designed a scale to measure people’s willingness to participate in social contacts of varying degrees of closeness with members of diverse social groups.

On one end of scale a person may not maintain social distance ( score 1) i.e. he may be willing to have member from diverse group as close relative ex. spouse and at the other end of scale a person may refuse to let member from diverse group enter into his country ( score 7).

Example of scale is given below.


This scale helps in explaining why some people are friendly towards migrants while others are hostile.





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