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Retraining the brain to dislodge the 'multiple complex factors' that can form and fuel prejudice

Demonstrators held signs at the ATXKind Rally for Kindness at the state Capitol last November, in response to a spike in incidents of antisemitism, hate speech and racism.

Prejudice rears its ugly head in hateful and tragic acts small and large every day — from personal microaggressions to horrific events like this year's mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store.

It might seem as if the false information and assumptions that fuel prejudice are all learned, but biology may actually play a role in prejudice, too.

Central Texas neuropsychotherapist Bella Rockman says prejudice is "developed from multiple complex factors that influence our thinking."

Rockman says some of the factors that help form and shape prejudice include:

  • Biology and "wiring"

  • Psychology and world view

  • Social and personal connections inside and outside the home

Those social factors seem like more obvious players in influencing the development of prejudice. But Rockman says basic biology has played a role, too. "The brain sort of takes notes or cues over time to remember what are perceived threats and what is perceived safety," she says. "Some of the ways that are easiest to identify safety in groups is to look at ourselves in terms of what are the similarities that we have."

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