Interpretation of Media

In this week’s episode of The Company (Laureate Education, Inc. [Laureate], 2011), we once again revisit a cubicle scene with dramatic enactments designed to highlight prejudice, stereotypes, and emotions.  We pick up where last week’s episode left off, with Karen desperately searching for her clutch, creating disarray in the process.  Karen is still feeling frustrated, which has overloaded her ability to behave and/or respond to others appropriately.  A conversation ensues wherein Karen makes a blanket accusation that one of coworkers stole her clutch.  After several exchanges verbal exchange between coworkers, it is revealed that Jose from Security took (stole) her clutch in order to clone Karen’s security card for the new person, Sally, but allegedly kept it because he found cigarettes in her clutch and he had witnessed Karen smoking in the “no smoking” zone.


Stangor defines prejudice as “a negative attitude toward a group or toward members of the group” (2009, p. 2).  This broad definition is expanded by Levy and Hughes to “holding negative feelings toward a group and its members or exhibiting hostile or negative treatment directed at a group and its members” (2009, p. 24).  Stereotyping, on the other hand, “involves the ascription of a set of psychological attributes to a group and its members” (Hamilton, Sherman, Crump, & Spencer-Rodgers, 2009, p. 191).  The difference between prejudice and stereotyping may be subtle; however, the critical point is that prejudice reflects an affective construct (i.e., negativity) whereas stereotypes reflect cognitive constructs (attributes) (Hamilton et al., 2009, Levy & Hughes, 2009), which may or may not result in prejudice.  For instance, positive stereotypes, such as the nurturing mother, may not engender negative responses or treatment by others.  In contrast, the lazy contractor stereotype may well induce negativity from potential hiring homeowners.

Both explicit and implicit prejudice are evidenced in this week’s media through the statements/comments made by and behaviors of the persons in the media.  Negative comments made by Steve, Jose, and Karen indicate prejudice towards certain groups.  Steve makes negative comments towards and about Jim evidencing a prejudice against those who have weight issues.  Jose reveals both a prejudice against smokers with negative comments regarding watching Karen and Jill smoke in a no smoking area and in his behavior, keeping Karen’s clutch and spraying her with air freshener.  Jose even justifies his theft of Karen’s clutch as being her fault because she breaks the rules and smokes.  Jose also makes a comment regarding Jill becoming and/or being pregnant, seeming to indicate a prejudice against women.  Taking an ingroup versus outgroup perspective, Karen seems to evidence an inherent prejudice towards all of her coworkers as a collective outgroup when she makes the accusation, “which one of you overpaid seatwarmers stole my clutch?”  Her accusation reveals her belief that her coworkers are overpaid and non-productive.

The character played by Karl reveals implicit or aversive prejudice towards Jose by treating him as though he were invisible.  Aversive prejudice occurs when an individual believes they are egalitarian and rejects consideration that they may be prejudiced, however, they harbor unconscious prejudice against certain outgroups (Hall & Derryberry, 2010).  In fact, “implicit attitudes present themselves as actions and judgments that are automatically activated without the person’s awareness” (Hall & Derryberry, 2010, p. 139).  In the extant media clip, omission of recognition operates as Karl asks “will someone call security?” right in front of Jose the security person.


As mentioned previously, people stereotype when they attribute certain traits, characteristics, and/or behaviors to particular groups of individuals.  If the stereotype is negative, which most are, prejudice may ensue.  A pertinent example from this week’s media is Jose’s categorization of Jill as a married woman, which activates a stereotype of married women that includes becoming or being pregnant.

Emotional influences

According to Intergroup Emotions Theory, social categorization dictates intergroup emotional responses or experiences (Mackie, Maitner, & Smith, 2009).  Karen’s behavior in the media is reflective of this concept.  First, Karen is angry and lashes out against her coworkers.  At a later point in the media, Karen’s angry is overcome by feelings of guilt and shame.  Her behavior is understood from the perspective of intergroup emotions theory.  At first, Karen is identified with a strong, legitimate ingroup of responsible working persons for the company who has been unjustly harmed by the outgroup: “overpaid seatwarmers.”  Her anger is thusly justified.  Later, when it is revealed that Karen has been inappropriately breaking the rules and smoking in non-smoking areas, her identity as a smoker is more salient resulting in her being a member of the weaker ingroup and experiencing feelings of guilt and desirous of avoiding further interaction.(Greenberg, Landau, Kosloff, & Solomon, 2009)


Greenberg, J., Landau, M., Kosloff, S., & Solomon, S. (2009). How our dreams of death transcendence breed prejudice, stereotyping, and conflict: Terror management theory. In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 309-332). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Hall, B., & Derryberry, W. P. (2010, November 2).  Are aversive racists distinguishable from those with high explicit racial prejudice?  Beliefs and Values, 2(2), 138-153.

Hamilton, D. L., Sherman, S. J., Crump, S. G., & Spencer-Rodgers, J. (2009).  The role of entitativity in stereotyping: processes and parameters.  In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 179-198).  New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer).  (2011). Prejudice .  Available from

Levy, S. R., & Hughes, J. M. (2009).  Development of racial and ethnic prejudice among children.  In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 23-42).  New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Mackie, D. M., Maitner, A. T., & Smith, E. R. (2009).  Intergroup emotions theory.  In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 285-307).  New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Stangor, C. (2009).  The study of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination within social psychology: A quick history of theory and research.  In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 1-22).  New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.


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