Evidence That It Works
Research finds that adults and children tend to show bias in favour of individuals who share their group identity (e.g., people of the same race, religion, age, political ideology, etc.). For instance, people tend to share more with in-group members, individuals who share a group identity, compared to out-group members, individuals who do not share the same group identity. The group identity may even be quite trivial, such as a group name given to students who were split into teams based on a minor preference (e.g., a preference for pizza versus hamburgers).
Furthermore, there is some evidence that third-parties punish out-group perpetrators more harshly than in-group perpetrators when they share group membership with victims. In one study, 6- and 8-year old children were assigned to one of two groups based on their color preference prior to engaging in a game. Children learned of their group identity (blue or yellow team) and spent some time making a team-colored hat. During the game, children also learned about a selfish “actor” who refused to share. Results showed that both 6- and 8-year-olds were more likely to pay to punish members of a different color team compared to same-color team selfish actors.
Why Does It Matter?
Although research shows that humans have a preference for fairness, our personal biases may influence our behavior in ways that we don’t always recognize. Teaching students to recognize their own biases and to understand how such biases can impact their behavior may also lead them to pay greater attention to the fair treatment of others.. Such attention can help reduce automatic and unfair responses and create a more positive school environment where all students feel valued.