Psychologists at Stanford University in California have found that racial prejudice can be reduced if members of different racial/ethnic groups participate in the other group’s cultural activities.
“We found that even a brief opportunity to take part in another group’s culture can improve intergroup attitudes even months later,” stated Tiffany Brannon, a doctoral student in psychology at Stanford and the lead researcher on the project.
The researchers found that when different ethnic groups worked together on a project there was no reduction in racial bias in one group unless the particular project had something to do with the culture of the second group. The results suggest that the peer group’s culture was the key to interest and more positive intergroup attitudes.
The researchers also found that the exercises had a lingering effect. Participants were surveyed six months later and reduced racial bias and prejudice was evident.
“The take-home message of this research is that cultural behaviors, ideas and practices that are often a source of pride and self-meaning for a group can play a role in improving intergroup outcomes,” Brannon said.
The researchers say their findings could help policymakers, employers, school administrators and others interested in creating a more positive climate for people from diverse backgrounds.
The research was published in the journal Psychological Science.