The study of prejudice and racism is one of the oldest interests of social psychology and continues as a major area of interest in the social sciences, in general. Early approaches to the study of prejudice and racism focused on intra-individual processes and personality defects, motivational aspects of inter-ethnic conflict, and the content and application of racial prejudice. With the advent of the cognitive approach to scholarship in social behavior, the focus was on the cognitive processes that promote, maintain, and transmit prejudice and how discrimination was best detected and controlled. Currently, there has been renewed interest in the motivational aspects of prejudice and racism. The present state of understanding stereotyping and prejudice stems from basic motives (i.e. belonging, understanding, controlling, etc.) and that new approaches to the understanding of prejudice and racism must include the study of a combination of cognitive and motivational aspects.

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