Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fighting prejudice through imitation: Asking white people to mirror the movements of a black person lowers their levels of implicit prejudice

Date:
October 5, 2011
Source:
University of Toronto Scarborough
Summary:
New research shows that you can reduce racial prejudice simply by having a person mimic the movements of a member of the race he or she is prejudiced against. The method may work by activating brain mechanisms that contribute to feelings of empathy.

New research shows that you can reduce racial prejudice simply by having a person mimic the movements of a member of the race he or she is prejudiced against. The method may work by activating brain mechanisms that contribute to feelings of empathy.

Normally, when we watch another person perform an action, our brain activity changes as we mentally simulate the other person. But the brain activity is less strong when we're watching people from other racial groups, and is least strong among people who are prejudiced against the racial group.

Michael Inzlicht, professor in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and affiliate faculty at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, wondered if he could turn that around. If prejudice reduces mental simulation, can physical simulation, or mimicry, reduce prejudice? It turns out that it can.

"We've shown that when people mimic others who belong to a different race than their own they tend to be less prejudiced toward that race," Inzlicht says.

Inzlicht, along with Jennifer N. Gutsell and Lisa Legault, also of UTSC, divided 63 white students into three groups and had them watch a video of a person repeatedly reaching for a bottle and taking a drink of water. One group watched a video with a black actor, and group members were instructed to mimic his movements. For comparison, another group mimicked the movements of a white actor, and the third group simply watched a black actor. After the video, the group that had mimicked the black actor scored lower on a test of implicit prejudice against black people than either of the other two groups.

Previous research has shown that we experience "motor resonance" when we watch other people perform an action. For instance, in prior research, Inzlicht and Gutsell measured electroencephalographic (EEG) oscillations in the motor cortex that occurred while watching other people perform actions. The study showed that motor resonance was stronger in white people when they watched other white people, compared to watching blacks or South Asians.

Although the mechanism isn't certain, it's possible that physically mimicking someone activates the same brain mechanisms that are normally activated when someone watches a member of his or her own race, inspiring the missing feeling of empathy and reducing prejudice.

This study did not directly measure motor resonance. Instead, the researchers used a test that measured levels of implicit prejudice. During the test, an image of a black or white face is flashed on a screen for 75 milliseconds, followed by an image of an unfamiliar pictogram. Test-takers are asked whether they liked the pictogram or not. In fact, their answers really reveal their feelings about members of the other race.

Inzlicht thinks that the reduction in prejudice he saw in his study is likely only short-term, since it was based on mimicking movements for only 140 seconds. But he thinks mimicry over the longer term might make more permanent changes. He's planning on studying athletes to see if he can find any changes caused by coordinating movements with teammates of a different race.

The study will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto Scarborough. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Inzlicht, Jennifer N. Gutsell, Lisa Legault. Mimicry reduces racial prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.06.007

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto Scarborough. "Fighting prejudice through imitation: Asking white people to mirror the movements of a black person lowers their levels of implicit prejudice." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003132237.htm>.
University of Toronto Scarborough. (2011, October 5). Fighting prejudice through imitation: Asking white people to mirror the movements of a black person lowers their levels of implicit prejudice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003132237.htm
University of Toronto Scarborough. "Fighting prejudice through imitation: Asking white people to mirror the movements of a black person lowers their levels of implicit prejudice." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003132237.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins