In a political climate marked by calls to ban Muslims from entering the country, tensions between non-Muslim and Muslim Arab Americans have intensified. How does this environment affect relationships between Muslim Arabs and other Americans? Can prejudice between the groups be reduced? And finally, can such reactions have long-lasting effects?
Although there are many studies of "de-biasing," or techniques to reduce prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination, the findings tend to be inconclusive. Some studies indicate that social biases are acquired early in life, others that biases are adopted quickly. Some scholars believe that biases are persistent, but others find them malleable. Some studies find that reducing prejudice occurs through contact with out-groups, but others find that direct contact is unnecessary and that even imagined positive interactions can reduce bias.
Economist Yan Chen, political scientist Ann Chih Lin and computer scientist Kentaro Toyama propose to conduct a randomized field experiment in two separate communities of the Detroit metropolitan area to examine the extent to which three identity-based de-biasing techniques—all run as a canvassing intervention—can reduce ethno-religious prejudice. The techniques include: (1) engaging in a perspective-taking exercise intended to enhance empathy; (2) examining personal values that are incompatible with prejudice (a value-consistency task) and (3) priming for a shared national identity. They will examine the short-term and a longer-term effects of these experimental interventions.