The Psychology of Tolerance

Conception and Development

Tolerance is only necessary when difference or diversity is present because it is only when we confront diversity that our acceptance of others is truly tested (Vogt, 1997). As an outcome of changing geo-political realities, we live in a complex world that is becoming increasingly diverse but not necessarily always harmonious. Multinational migration of either ethnic workers or refugees, whether for economic or political reasons, is becoming more and more prevalent resulting in a world were monocultural societies are virtually extinct today. Considering current events in the world such as the recent inflow of millions of migrants and refugees to Europe from the Middle-East and Africa, which unfortunately can and does create disharmony and intolerance. Research shows that places where economic conditions are less affluent and the influx of migrants is large, negative feelings about foreigners emerge more readily, in contrast to more wealthy countries. Similarly, in places where there is a greater support for right-wing parties, negative feelings about migrants and refugees are more pronounced (Semyonov, Raijman, & Gorodzeisky, 2006). History has shown how intolerance to others who are different can result in calamitous outcomes such as the Shoah (the Holocaust), Srebrenica or the Rwanda massacres.

While these are extreme examples, they point to the importance for the understanding of tolerance and acceptance as applied to human diversity generally, as well as an important research goal both theoretically and practically. Such insight may help to shape the debate and practice about policies related to productive diversity in a multicultural environment and provide a basis for the design of community and school-based education programs (Thomas, 1998). Evaluations of education and/or intervention programs aimed at reducing prejudice have yielded mixed results. Promoting tolerance maybe an alternative route to more harmonious living between diverse people.