Aug 13, 2011

study argues stimulating empathy reduces racism


from the Greater Good blog comes this report

In the study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers showed participants a five-minute video depicting a black man named Glen and a white man named John. Both shopped in a department store, tried to buy a car, and interacted with police, but Glen clearly experienced discrimination.

Some participants were then asked to imagine Glen’s perspective—what he might be thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Others were asked to imagine what thoughts and feelings they would have if they were in Glen’s situation. A third group was supposed to remain objective; they weren’t told to consider Glen’s thoughts or emotions.

Then the researchers gave the participants’ a sophisticated test that measures unconscious biases.

The results show that participants in both perspective-taking conditions were less biased than participants who were asked to be objective. What’s more, it didn’t seem to matter how the participants went about taking Glen’s perspective: Participants who imagined Glen’s thoughts and feelings showed the same reduction in unconscious bias as those who imagined how they would feel if they were Glen.

In a variation on this experiment, the researchers found that participants showed less automatic bias even when they were simply shown a picture of a black man and asked to imagine his thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Another experiment in the study showed that perspective taking did not lead participants to ignore racial inequality, as previous studies have suggested.

and it goes on
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