Prejudice means exactly what it sounds like it means: to prejudge something or someone. Relating prejudice to the DIP process, it is a 'pre-inference', an inference made prior to gathering or receiving all data available about a person, place or thing. I've been on the planet since 1954 and in the time since I began understanding big words, I've always tended to see prejudice as a negative thing people do to one another. Without a doubt, prejudice connotes a negative approach to understanding people. It has some positive aspects, but more often the results of prejudice are not desirable.

Up to this point, we have reviewed and examined zig zags, onion skins, and the DIP process. Since principles generalize, these people stuff principles operate in prejudice, too. Let me show you how I have come to think about what is going on in the act of prejudging.

Prejudging is a behavior. It is something I say and do in a particular way. There is no evidence that this behavior originates from some genetic code or a chemical imbalance in the brain, so it is probably learned. The presence of prejudice suggests that it is an onion skin which has been learned and reinforced because it has worked in the past. Ultimately, I developed onions skins, including prejudice, because my number one job is the protection and enhancement of my sense of self. In addition, my onion skins are used to get my learned needs or zig zag satisfied and allow me to feel like somebody.

My prejudice onion skin must also serve these goals. In my way of thinking, using my set of perceptual filters, I have formed an inference about my prejudice. It 'is' not a coping mechanism. The reason I don't see it as a coping mechanism is because it doesn't appear to bring people towards me when I hold a prejudice. Of course, it brings people who hold the same prejudice as I toward me, but it pushes many more people away. I see prejudice as a defense mechanism, a behavior or onion skin that tends to keep others away from me. So just what am I defending? My zig zag.

Somehow, someway, something in my learned needs structure feels threatened or violated by someone or something else. I feel so threatened or violated that I need to move to action quickly to protect and defend the somebody I have got to feel like. In moving quickly, I don't have much time and don't plan to take much time in gathering data. Something bad might happen to me if I dilly dally around gathering data about the people or things that threaten me.

All of us have developed some degree of sensitivity to prejudice. We recognize it as a barrier to understanding and cooperation between diverse groups of people. I do not hope to cure the prejudice in the world, but I do want to understand the possible sources of prejudice. Data-inference-prophecy and the other principles of people stuff have given me a workshop full of tools to work with this painful issue. I can catch myself applying my own prejudices, examine what I am up to, and seek out coping behaviors which will work for me. I can witness prejudice in the world, analyze the possible violations and threats people appear to feel, and help them challenge their perception of these violations and threats. Prejudice is one example of how DIP can get away from us quickly with disasterous effects.


DIP operates in stereotyping as well. Stereotyping is the act of attributing inferences about a group to an apparent member of that group. On the negative side, stereotypes are very over-simplified and over-generalized opinions (inferences). On the positive side, they are helpful to us when we need to quickly categorize the overwhelming amount of data we gather constantly.

By now, I hope I have been persuasive enough to convince you that each of us are unique human beings. Because I so strongly believe we are each unique, stereotypes, by definition, are rarely accurate.

Grouping people together focusing on some common characteristics is necessary and useful. In science and medicine, certain groupings allow us to analyze ourselves systematically with a high degree of organization. Treatments, therapies, and cures depend upon this ability to categorize people. In government and politics, we put ourselves into groups to provide services we can't provide to ourselves as individuals. In business, the research, manufacture and delivery of products and services depends on knowing about sorts and types and kinds of people and their needs. In education, we group people to facilitate teaching efficiency. In other areas of our lives, grouping ourselves is a natural and necessary process and occurs in all societies.

However, grouping people is not stereotyping. Stereotyping focuses on an individual. It involves viewing a person that appears to be a member of a defined group and treating that person as if he or she has all the attributes, behaviors patterns, attitudes, beliefs, and other characteristics which define the group.

You could probably offer many examples of stereotypes and how they work. You have used stereotyping and you have been a victim of stereotyping. No one walking the face of the earth has not experienced stereotyping. It starts when we're born.

If you were born a male, one of the two most prevalent genders, the stereotype about males, boys, guys, fellows, men, etc. kick into gear. As a female baby, the big people around you applied the stereotypes associated with females, girls, gals, chicks, and women right from the start. A small bit of data (pardon the pun), genitals fuel the inferences and prophecies about what the child will be, what it will do, and why it will do it.

You reach the age of two and people who don't know you very well expect you to act in accordance with the group labeled the terrible twos. People using this stereotype may invite you and your parents to their house, but they 'know' they have to put the breakables out of your reach.

Come the age of 10, 11 or 12, people look at you with a sense of dread. Puberty is about to hit you broadside, turning you into a quivering mass of hormones which could go bonkers at any moment. The stereotype endures, because it seems to be true. Although you are an individual who may react entirely different to the onslaught of teenagedom, people who don't know you think they do.

On the data level, I can observe your skin color, facial features, hair texture, and even delve into your chromosomes to arrive at a conclusion about your race. But from this information, can I know what your motives are, what your beliefs and truths are, what you are likely to do, how you will react to different situations, and what your dreams, hopes and aspirations are? To say I can is to say I can read your mind. To say I can, in my opinion, is to be arrogant.

Stereotypes based on gender, age, and race will not go away. Generalized inferences about economic classes, geographic locations, political divisions we attribute to persons who belong to or seem to belong to those groups will always exist. Eliminating stereotyping seems to be a futile goal to me and should not be our goal. Stereotypes are very useful. It is how we use stereotypes that should command our attention.

My personal goal and my wish for others is to accept and appreciate each person we bump into for the unique individual he or she is. I would want us to grab our automatic pilots by the neck and keep them from assuming we really know who people are. But as I stated before, we cannot know anything about anyone else except what they say and do and how they say and do it. Using stereotypes can be helpful. However, it can also prevent us from getting to know people and eventually, understand them. To me, I am always better off when I challenge stereotypes and gather more data about a person with whom I interact.

DIP and Arguing about Truths

The next time you overhear two people in the midst of an argument, listen very closely. Try to determine on which level of DIP they are arguing. Ask yourself, "Are they arguing about the facts of a situation, the data that they witnessed, or whether or not something happened? Or are they arguing about what the data mean and what will happen next?" You will find that most arguments occur on the inference and prophecy levels.

Facts are hard and fast, black and white, and easy to gather and agree upon. Truths are not facts, do not lend themselves to either/or analysis, and form after the perceptual filters have tainted the data. It is difficult to argue with or about facts, whereas truths easily lend themselves to argument.

Arguments about truths consume enormous amounts of energy, talent, time, and money. Here are a few truth arguments which consume the most resources: Labor truths vs. management truths; Wife truths vs. husband truths; Men truths vs. women truths; Conservative truths vs. liberal truths; Parent truths vs. children truths; African-American truths vs. European-American truths vs. Native American truths vs. Asian-American truths vs. Hispanic-American truths; Christian truths vs. Muslim truths vs. Hindu truths vs. Buddhist truths vs. Taoist truths vs. Agnostic truths vs. Atheist truths.

I like to think about what I call the economics of truth arguments. I enjoy imagining what we might accomplish as a species if we used our energy, talent, time, and money on understanding, appreciating, and accepting one another rather than convincing, persuading, and arguing about our truths. I am sure we will never know how much money has been spent to deal with these arguments. We will never know how much brain power has been devoted to these arguments. We will never know how much blood and flesh has been consumed on these arguments. I don't even think it is so important that we know how much of our collective resources were spent, devoted and consumed on arguments in the past. First, the past is past and secondly, we would probably depress ourselves if we knew how much. At cocktail parties, discussing the economics of truth arguments might be an interesting challenge and soomthing to argue about, but I don't live with these macro- arguments day to day. I live in the micro-world of one-on-one relationships.

I deal with micro-level truth arguments with my wife about what time we'll eat, whether or not to buy a new car, which insurance will serve our purposes, what to do this weekend, and who will go to the store to get the toilet tissue. I must make my position known to the woman who consistently calls asking me to switch phone companies and mispronounces my name each time she calls. I have to handle the problem with the book club customer service representative when I get the wrong books in the mail and wonder if they want me to pay the postage to send them back. I must persuade the bank's account manager that I'm not overdrawn and to look for the deposit I made days before. I have got to convince the mechanic that there really is something wrong with the radiator. These and other possible points of contention seem pretty mundane and small and not worth arguing over when compared to the big picture, but these are the kinds of truth arguments which consume my individual energy, talent, time, and money. These are the truth arguments we all face.

I can influence the outcomes of my daily interactions, my relationships with family members, my dealings with coworkers, and my social exchanges with others. I can have an immediate impact by recognizing that most arguments occur on the inference and prophecy levels. In an argument with someone, I can choose to fight to the death over his truths which will always be different from mine. This approach will probably violate or threaten the other person's sense of self and zig zag, driving them to use defensive behaviors which will violate or threaten me. But this isn't my only choice.

First and foremeost, I can gather more data and ask the person with whom I might argue how he or she arrived at his or her inferences. Some other choices I have are simple. I can agree and give up my truth. I can agree to disagree. I can accept and live with the differences between us. I can acknowledge without evaluation the other's truth.

I can also remember that a person's truth stems from his perceptual filters, his basic assumptions and generalized expectancies about the world and the people in it. Since filters develop from experiences, how can I possibly argue with his experiences? I didn't live through what he lived through. I could never experience what he experienced and see the data he sees in the unique way he sees it. He is the expert on his life, not I. It seems ridiculous to argue with someone about something of which they alone have knowledge. To do so would be to argue from a point of thorough, complete and total ignorance.

Furthermore, if the point of arguing is to persuade someone to accept and live by my truth, I will have an impossible task based on the way perceptual filters work. My truth is based on data tinted by my unique experiences that no one else has had nor will have. Unless you are me, you will never fully and completely with total certainty understand my point of view. You may come close, you may accept and appreciate what you infer to be my view, but you will never know. I would like for you to know, but you are doomed not to know and there is nothing you or I can do about it.

Final DIP Comments

Data-inference-prophecy remains the most important principle and process of human behavior I have and will ever learn. I can't imagine anything that can explain so much so well. In the third section of this book, we will explore how we can become more effective in our interactions with others using DIP.

Next Page: How We Operate-Part 5 Words and Music