Avoiding the charge of prejudice: The formulation of naturalistic justifications for prejudiced opinions
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Abstract Prejudice is widely researched area, however, this investigation aimed to analyse naturalistic expressions of prejudice in a novel way through the use of online communications. By applying a discursive psychological approach we can see how prejudiced opinions are expressed when the traditional rules of communication are not present. Our data was collected from the forums in six newspaper websites. People frequently post their opinions in these forums in response to stories reported in the newspaper. Frequently used interesting patterns of expressing prejudiced opinions were identified within the data. The most interesting patterns were collected and analysed using a discursive psychological approach which allowed an identification of how commentators used language to produce opinions and in particular the devices they used to justify them. The analysis shows commentators aimed to avoid the charge of prejudice through adopting different content devices, such as the introduction of facticity. Furthermore, commentators referred to social categories frequently in the data in a variety of ways, such as relying on stereotypes, drawing on the commentators own identity, etc. This enhanced their justification for holding an opinion. In many of the extracts it was found that commentators aimed to enhance their credibility in order to avoid a charge of prejudice. It was concluded that individuals adopt a variety of devices when expressing a prejudiced opinion. Frequently, these devices are applied to enhance the credibility of the comment and justify the reasons for holding such an opinion. It is also noticeable that these devices were adopted despite the opinions being expressed in online communications during which the commentator is anonymous and there is no audience effect. This result indicates the pressures societal norms have on our production of prejudice.