You are here:

Psychiatry & Psychology--General/intolerance in the visually impaired


Dear Dr. Borkosky

I am hoping you will be able to point me to peer-reviewed research regarding the comparison of racial prejudices among the general population and those with impairment of their senses, particularly the visual apparatus.

Please let me assure you that I am not a trying to have you do my literature research for my homework assignments, rather I have completed my formal education some years ago (natural sciences). My Google research pertaining to my question has lead me nowhere.

I am currently living in the Big Bend of the Panhandle (FL) and had the privilege to observe my friends and colleagues and the media during the 2012 presidential election.  What a hair-raising, mind-boggling spectacle.

Hailing originally from Germany and having lived in 5 different countries in the past decade, I have come to understand that humans are intrinsically emotional creatures most comfortable when part of social groups based on religious beliefs, skin pigmentation, sport affiliation, political convictions, region of origin and so on.  These groups not only identify those individuals bearing kinship, they also distinguish other crowds one may feel superior, or fearful of.  The latter aspect seems to provide the strongest bond among people, relative to their common interests/beliefs/origins.

I also found that most people will defend or at least be comfortable with their prejudice against groups and their tired stereotypes, and yet will readily make the exception for individuals they have come to know ("I do not like Turkish people, but Ali, my friend from soccer is my kind of laddie- AND he makes great kebab").

Not only seems the world categorized according to these groups, judgement is passed in split seconds upon seeing a new unknown person (Should I cross the street if a group of young men of ethnicity 'A' comes my way?).
While I understand that much of the latter behaviour may stem from fight-flight instincts, I am have come to wonder if, for example, persons with visual impairment are less afflicted by intolerance which I think stems from the interpretation of pure visual information against a background of folklore and cultural stereotyping. Or do other senses alleviate the missing input and would judgement be passes based on accents etc.?

I apologize for my fumbled narrative which also is reeking of stereotypes and I do not mean any insult to anyone. Actually, I think layman articles discussion pertaining to these issues would probably be most appropriate for me.

Thank you for your help.

Kind regards

Hi, Nadine, thanks for your question. I'm somewhat familiar with the literature on political groups, intolerance, and stereotypes. I also understand your theory that stereotyping could be mitigated by disability or visual impairment. However, I'm not familiar with any such research. In addition, I don't think that stereotyping has anything to do with visual appearance. Rather, I think it has more to do with self-identity, group-identity, and the need to uplift one's group and denigrate outside groups. These factors are psychological in nature, not perceptual. Thus, physical features, such as skin color merely serve as a justification or rationalization for the denigration of out-groups that has already taken place in the person's mind. You see the same kind of thing expressed in Romney's 47% speech, where he categorized half the U.S. as 'takers, not makers'. This aspect of humans is so pervasive that, in social psychology, it is called the 'fundamental attribution error'.

Thus, I think it is likely that any mitigating effect that being disabled might have (and thus being a member of an outgroup) would be more than outweighed by the effect of identification with a particular group and the resulting need to denigrate people of different groups. Thus, if you have a Southern evangelical conservative Republican, who happens to be blind, being blind won't have much of an effect on which groups the person denigrates

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


any related to psychology, especially related to forensic psychology


15 years as a licensed psychologist, 15 years in private practice. My practice began primarily doing individual and group psychotherapy, is now devoted to assessments, but I occasionally do take on clients in therapy.

American Psychological Association

B.A. psychology, B.A., music, Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978 MCS, computer science, University of Dayton, 1984 MA, psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1991 Psy.D., psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1993 post doctoral training in Neuropsychology, Fielding Institute, 1995-1997

©2017 All rights reserved.