Reducing Bias and Prejudice
How can we work to reduce bias and prejudice?
In past research we have seen that working together on a common task with equal status reduces bias and prejudice. The film, American History X, has a good example of that as the main characters work together in the prison laundry and slowly get to know each other as human beings rather than as members of different races about which they have strong opinions. Homeboy Industries, the Los Angeles gang intervention program that Karen Sternheimer has blogged about, includes former gang rivals working together to eliminate conflict. However, considering the issues of confirmation bias, where we seek out information that reinforces our pre-existing beliefs, not to mention the impracticality of setting up such situations, these might not always work to reduce bias and prejudice. What else can we do?
National Public Radio (NPR) science correspondent Shankar Vedantum recently discussed an interesting study. University of Virginia professor Calvin Lai along with a team of researchers, some affiliated with Harvard’s Project Implicit , studied eighteen strategies to assess effectiveness in reducing racial bias.
They found education about injustice was not a particularly effective method, nor was asking people to have empathy for others. The top three most effective strategies involve more than one technique, suggesting that multiple techniques must be used. These effective strategies do have one thing in common; they all involve “counterstereotypical” images.
Observing images that are counter to what we expect to see, based on societal biases, train us to see, perceive, and accept what those images present. In the NPR interview, one of the researchers mentions that her favorite image was that of a construction worker nursing her baby.
Later while out and about, I saw something that can also be considered a counter stereotypical
I found it rather ironic that the business was selling nutritional supplements while this man seemed to be both not the type of customer they have nor a person whose own nutrition was adequate.
But I have found myself thinking about it often – fascinated that a business would hire a homeless man to advertise for them. This type of image or situation might help people to see that homeless people can and do work.