Susan Boyle, Social Psychology and Discrimination – Prejudice and Britain’s Got Talent Star

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Scottish Susan Boyle stunned the judges on the ITV show Britain’s Got Talent with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” How is the audience’s behaviour before and after her very first performance an example of discrimination?

Susan Boyle’s Performance on “Britain‘s Got Talent”

Susan Boyle stepped onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and told the judges she’d always dreamed of being a professional singer. She informed presenters Ant and Dec that she lived alone with her cat and admitted that she had never even be kissed.

She then trudged across the stage, made a joke about her size that prompted laughter from the audience and scepticism as she claimed she wanted to be as famous as Elaine Paige.

When her singing started, the snickering stopped. Susan stunned the audience into silence; the grandeur of her voice turning their scathing, sceptical faces to looks of disbelief.

Judge Amanda Holden admitted it was “the biggest wake-up call ever” as everyone had been cynical.

Susan Boyle – A Stereotype

The 47 year old church volunteer, Susan Boyle has become an overnight singing sensation and millions are now watching her perform online. Even the actress Demi Moore has joined her legions of fans who are voicing their support for the singer and her performance has received 5 million hits on You Tube.

Discrimination in psychology is a behaviour or action with reference to unequal treatment of people because they are of a particular group whether it is racial, ethnic, religious or gender. Individual discrimination is an example of unequal treatment that is directed at a specific individual.

Common Stereotypical Behaviours in Social Psychology

Common prejudical behaviours include derision, ridicule, contempt and scorn of someone based on their belonging to a particular group. Discrimination in social psychology is when people get so caught up in the “package” that they don’t consider the “contents.”

Susan Boyle then represents the stereotypical “old maid” living alone with her cat who was bullied as a child and has never been kissed.

In Susan’s case, the discrimination was a mix of:

  • Cynicism that this woman who typifies Everywoman actually thought she could be another Elaine Paige
  • Disbelieve as brilliant performers must look attractive and glamorous to be successful
  • Scorn that a frumpy rather awkward woman could imagine she’d ever be famous

Why Susan Boyle’s performance made some people weep was a mixture of:

  • Sudden Insight into how many brilliant performers like Susan never get a chance because they don’t “look the part.”
  • Realisation of all the years this woman has been struggling with a dream that should have been realised years ago
  • Sudden awareness that her loss has been the nation’s loss too
  • Hope that those who are brave enough and who dare, will eventually win
  • Hope for others who have dreams not to give up on them
  • Surprise that this gentle unassuming woman with a voice of an angel might actually realise her dream and win the contest.

People use stereotypes all the time without realising it. This involves seeing the actions or judging one person as a reflection of an entire group rather than perceiving the person as an individual.

How to Reduce Prejudice in Social Psychology

In recognising prejudice exists people can actively seek to learn more about stereotypical behaviour. They might take time to take an honest look inside to see what prejudices and stereotypes are held against others based on race, religion and such, and then figure out how those prejudices/stereotypes got there and remove them from hearts and mind.

Education and upbringing can have an affect on reducing stereotypes and discrimination.

Judge Piers Morgan described Susan’s performance as the “biggest surprise in three years on the show” and as Susan Boyle’s Fan Site firmly proclaims: Never Judge a Book by its Cover.


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