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Humanities Class

Cultural Interactions and Issues

Beliefs, Attitudes and Values

  • As you study human differences, it is important to recognize the beliefs that people hold and how those beliefs lead to behaviors.  
  • Beliefs are inferences about reality
  • Attitudes are clusters of beliefs
  • Values are combinations of attitudes that lead to choices and generate action


American Values and American Behaviors

  • Americans believe in the worth and dignity of the individual, focusing on personal achievement.   The value placed on equality and rights for every person is in their founding documents
  • Americans believe that each human being has inalienable rights to life, liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness and the US Constitution guarantees the freedoms of speech, press, and religion
  • The democratic, representative form of government is based on the ideas of consent of the governed and majority rule.
  • Americans expect to make and follow laws and to be protected by due process in cases of conflict and criminal charges.  They also expect to be protected as communities and as a nation by the government, police forces and the military


Human Differences

  • Bias – is a preference or inclination that inhibits impartial judgment.  Bases can be either positive or negative
  • Prejudice – is a negative attitude or a predisposition to negative behavior toward a group and people perceived as members of that group
  • Discrimination – is behaviors, actions, or practices carried out by a member or members of dominant groups that have a differential and negative impact on a member or members of subordinate groups.
  • Stereotype – is a trait or traits incorrectly and/or unfair ascribed to a group and to most members of that group.  Stereotypes can be either positive or negative
  • Bigotry – is extreme negative attitudes leading to hatred of a group and people perceived as members of that group.


Negative Attitudes : How do they develop

  • Humans learn biases, stereotypes, and prejudices, while growing up.  We determine at some point whether to accept or reject these attitudes
  • Confirmation bias – the tendency to accept information that reinforces one’s beliefs while ignoring information that contradicts those beliefs.
    • Confirmation bias causes people to only look for evidence that reinforces their views.
    • Confirmation bias also causes people to interpret ambiguous information in a way that strengthens their own preconceived notions.
    • Confirmation Bias – is a powerful influence resulting in pervasive stereotypes and entrenched prejudices


Race, Ethnicity and Nationality

  • Prejudice and discrimination are often based on human differences such as race, ethnicity and nationality
  • Race – is not a scientific concept but a social reality dictated by the perceptions of physical differences in the color of one’s skin.  
  • Ethnicity – based on cultural differences and refers to historic origins of an individual’s family
  • Nationality – refers to the nation in which one has citizenship


Minorities vs Majorities: Population vs Power

  • Minority group – one which possesses limited power compared to the majority group.
  • Majority group – one which holds most of the power to make decisions in a society 
  • Power is used in a society to define, label, and control people and circumstances.


Language and Labels

  • Language – the primary tool we use to pursue understanding
  • When language is used to label a group of people, opportunities for misunderstandings, stereotypes, and biases arise, because labels can enhance or diminish the human qualities we ascribe to others
  • Majority groups sometimes create and use derisive labels for members of the minority groups.  These labels reflect a sense of contempt or ridicule based on factors such as race , gender, sexual orientation, and disability.
  • Labels damage individuals in the dominant group as well as those in the minority group because derisive language creates unnecessary barriers to positive communication and problem-solving  
  • In recognition of the power of such labels, many groups have responded by labeling themselves in a positive way, and i some cases, “owning” the offensive language for their own use


Addressing Discrimination: Perspectives

  • Universalistic Perspective – sees the problem as widespread, public, and predictable.  They think that prejudice, bigotry and discrimination are a consequence of inequitable social arrangements, and we should research and address these problems as a nation through institutional action such as educational programs in schools.
  • Example of Universalist Perspective – “Police violence against minorities exist because of our history of racism and our systemic, ongoing prejudices as a country.  All schools and other public institutions in the United States should implement mandatory instructional units on diversity
  • Exceptionalist Perspective – sees society’s problems as unique, private, local and unpredictable.  They think that cases of discrimination are accidental, unfortunate, and / or caused by a few bad apples.   They believe that problems should be addressed locally, with specific remedies for each case
  • Example of Exceptionalist Perspective – Cases of police violence against minorities happen in isolation due to a few racist individuals and they should be dealt with locally with disciplinary measures and educational programs for the offending persons.
  • This perspective addresses the immediate problem, but neglects research and comprehensive education programs that might alleviate the problem in the future. 

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