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Anders Breivik: a Psychological Review

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Anders Breivik

On the 22nd of July 2011, Anders Breivik, a Norwegian man killed 77 people at a Norwegian labour party. It was a tragic event for Norway, as it is mainly known for its calm and quiet nature. This goes to show that even in the most peaceful of places; there are people who would go to great lengths when it comes to their beliefs (Watts, Norway’s Massacre, 2011). This essay will be going over the possible psychological reasons to why Breivik killed innocent people. Using relevant theories and explaining how prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping may have in input on Breivik’s decisions.

Central traits is the making up of a person’s personality that are meaningful in some aspects, this could be analysing whether a person is open or closed off. If a person has a warm personality they could be considered to be friendly, cheerful and outgoing. These care traits that make people want to be around a person, because it is isn’t threatening or intimidating (Allport, G. W. 1937). Linking this to Breivik, it was hard for the Norwegian police to think he was responsible for the attacks as his neighbours and family stated that he was a quiet person and he was a good child. Could this mean that Breivik possibly has a personality disorder? Although it was tested if he had a personality disorder, during his trail psychiatrists did many evaluations and tests to find any answers that may have lead Breivik to kill. The psychiatrists found that Breivik had taken anabolic steroids combined with large doses of ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin on the day of the attacks (Melle, 2013). Perhaps the dosages had taken effect and had made him paranoid.

Stereotyping can also cause an effect a person’s behaviour towards their personality, giving negative traits to a certain out group can lead to negative thoughts, and in Breivik’s cause; extremism. It is important to state that people are not born prejudice, but are people born with knowledge of stereotyping? If we look at it in a way that a person has a set of likes similar to another, that in the in group; but others that dislike that one particular thing could be the out group. This of course is linked to sexism and racism, amongst other sensitive topics (berkeleywellness, 2017). According to Fiske, et al there is four groups of stereotyping; paternalistic, admiration, contemptuous and envious. These stereotypes come with emotions and behaviour; pity, pride, disgust and envy (Fiske, et al 2002). Linking this to Breivik, his emotions towards his Muslim stereotyping lead his behaviour to become disgust, since he did not want the Norwegian government to allow Muslim immigrants to enter Europe.

Formation of stereotyping can be made up of different factors, one of them being socialization and upbringing. Stereotyping can be influenced by adults around children from a young age, perhaps Breivik’s parents or other family members were heard stereotyping, since the older generation are set in their ways; family members might have the same thoughts about immigrants in Norway. Intergroup relations could also influence stereotyping; if friends in an in group share the same feelings about Muslims entering Norway, perhaps this motivated Breivik into his decisions (Olkinuora, 1974). Cognitive functions help to make sense of the world, in this case; why people stereotype. The cognitive function helps to simply situations and information; this is so that information is easily indentified and recalled. When it comes to social functions, there are two types of this category; social categorization and self categorization. Social categorization is when stereotypes can be used to explain events such as; putting an in group in a positive light by differentiating the negative traits of an out group like how Breivik out groups Muslims to Norwegian Christians. Self categorization is stereotyping one’s self and his in group (Hamilton, 2016). For example, fans of a sports team believe that their team is the best and that any other sports team is not.

Prejudice and discrimination go hand in hand but they are very different in terms of stereotyping. Prejudice is having a negative attitude towards a person’s social group. A person with prejudice views do not act upon their thoughts, and do not discriminate against a person. They might think negatively towards a group of people but they won’t shout out racial slurs or act sexist towards someone (McLeod, 2008). However, it is good to state that prejudice can be negative or positive, though more likely negative. Perhaps Breivik had prejudice thoughts that lead him to discrimination, anyone can be pushed into discrimination especially if influences by others; such as the media (main stream and others). Internet sources may have made a huge impact for Breivik as he took a year off whilst planning his attacks to play World of Warcraft. Perhaps he spoke to people with similar views over the game and thought that it was his duty to serve his country, even if it was in a negative outlook (Orange, 2012).

Discrimination is when a person acts on their thoughts, usually always negatively, towards an individual or a group based of sex, racism and more. Behaviour traits of discrimination are usually aggressive and intimidating, leaving victims feel belittled and scared. An extreme example of this would be how Jews were discriminated against by Nazis; German soldiers would act aggressively towards Jewish people, often harming them before they would enter into concentrating camps (McLeod, 2012). In this case, Breivik sees the same way as Hitler saw the Jews. It is quite clear that Breivik is heavily influenced by Hitler’s past, as he was seen in court doing the Hitler salute (Ritter, 2016).

Stereotyping can develop into both prejudice and discrimination, but how? Well, if people are born with the ability to stereotype or gain knowledge from it from influencers then it is always a possibility that it develops into something more. Through personal beliefs and upbringing, stereotyping can turn into prejudice as somebody gets older, and then their behaviour can turn into discrimination. According to Freud (1923), a person’s personality is made up of three traits; the ego, superego and ID. The ego is a person’s centre; it is responsible for the normal behavioural traits and rules on how to behave. The superego is what helps a person to be reasonable, thinking twice before doing something that could be risky. It is also responsible for making the ID feel guilty. However, the ID is responsible for pleasure, usually unreasonable and unrealistic needs. The ID could be responsible for prejudice thoughts and wanting to discriminate but the superego can limit those feelings, making a person feel guilty. But, if a person does not have a healthy psyche, the ID can take control and this lead to people to discriminate (Freud, S. 1923).

According to Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, stereotypes are learned. But a study by Sherif (1954) called the “Robbers Cave” or the “Realistic Conflict Theory” show’s that people may be born to stereotype. This theory was carried out by setting a group of 22 boys in a summer camp; there they were set into two groups; the eagles and the rattlers. Each group was made aware of the other, competitions were set in place and fights broke out and groups would sabotage the others rooms. Prejudicial attitudes were developed between the groups (Sherif et al). This study shows that prejudice and discrimination can occur at any time and age; even when set in a fun and games environment. Sherif’s theory debunks Bandura’s theory but suggesting that stereotyping is an instinct and if put in the right situation, it can occur. However, this study did have some ethnical issues. The participants did not know the real aim of the study or that it was a study, as well as the study broke into violence which did not protect the participants from physical and psychological harm. Another issue with this theory is that it was biased since the study only had white middle class boys; there were no participants that were of other race, background or gender (McLeod, 2008).

Another one of Bandura’s experiments was the “Bobo Doll” (1961). This was an experiment to show that children learn through viewing and imitation. A group of children from ages 3-6 were split into groups. One group were shown a video of adults punching the bobo doll whilst the other group was not. This was done to see how the children would react next; children were all individually taken to the bobo doll and the study showed that the children who were shown the video acted aggressively towards the doll, punching and kicking it. However, even though the other group who were not shown the video would still act aggressively towards to doll; this time not punching or kicking the doll but using other objects such as a toy gun. This model was not gender biased as the study used both male and female participants. This being said, female participants used more verbal aggression than males, whereas male participants used more psychical aggression. This model was done in a controlled environment, so the children had little chances of hurting themselves. A limitation of this study is that there is no evidence that the experiment will have long term effects (Bandura, 1965).

Policy Proposal

This proposal will be explaining the possible effects of prejudice and discrimination as well as researching attitude changes and how funding can be used to reduce the issues. There are many factors and topics that are being discriminated against such as racism and sexism. This proposal will be focussing on racial discrimination and how it has been a huge impact in today’s society.

In Britain, the current situation for racism is linked to Brexit and the United Kingdom leaving the EU. Along with this has come a lot of racism during the voting. This could be because some people who voted to stay in the EU suggest that people who voted out are racist, this is being prejudice. Assuming that a group of people who are against your views are racist or are discriminating is being prejudice and discriminating yourself. Although, this is just an example of what is happening in today’s society, racism and discrimination has been happening for centuries (Hunt, A. and Wheeler, B. 2017).

Background and justification:

In it important to know the differences between prejudice and discrimination, as confusing them can lead into unwanted altercations. When someone has prejudice views they are stereotyping a group of people or an individual based on gender, sex, race or religion but they do not act upon their views. When somebody is discrimination against someone else, they are acting upon their views. This can be in a passive aggressive way, shouting slurs towards a person of a different race including derogatory words. Telling a person who is born in a different country to go back is discrimination or even telling a woman to go back to the kitchen. All of these can have an effect on a person, more than likely emotionally rather than psychically unless that victim is assaulted; in this case, taking it further to authorities is a good idea (Inzlicht, M. & Kang, S.K. 2010).

But what are the effects of these? Well, for the victim this can lead to depression and anxiety which then leads to stress. A person might lose interest in things they enjoy; they also may have loss of sleep and develop eating disorders. It is a very serious issue that needs to be taken into action more often rather than being pushed aside (Eschooltoday.com, 2017).

As for the person who is discriminating against others, this person could get into serious trouble and will lose their job if complaints are made. This person can get into serious trouble with the law and could get charged with harassment and assault. This person will also form a bad reputation and might lose all friendship groups (Writer, 2017).

Changes and conclusion:

So, in today’s society prejudice and discrimination is very much still around, is it possible that people can change? Well, the older generation are still very set in their ways and beliefs, but we can teach the younger generation that there is no need to discriminate against someone for the colour of their skin or where they come from, what their gender is or what their sexuality is. A way of doing this is through social groups, sports clubs, music clubs or even just youth groups to help people socialize amongst different people. Allowing a vide diversity of people can help make others understand that we’re all different but that’s a good thing and we don’t need to discriminate and out group people for ridiculous things (Baumeister and Finkel, 2010).

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Anders Breivik: a Psychological Review. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 28, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/anders-breivik-a-psychological-review/
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Anders Breivik: a Psychological Review. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/anders-breivik-a-psychological-review/> [Accessed 28 Jul. 2021].
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