Evidence That It Works
Numerous studies have shown that perspective-taking—or actively considering another person’s point of view—is a powerful method for bridging divides between people of diverse backgrounds.
For example, perspective-taking has been found to cultivate positive attitudes towards not just one person in an “outgroup”, but also towards other members of that person’s group, and the group as a whole—with lasting effects.
Hence, a white student might benefit from understanding the perspective of an African-American student, or someone the white student considers consciously or unconsciously to be a member of an “outgroup.” In addition, researchers have discovered that considering another’s viewpoint increases one’s willingness to help people in an outgroup and to take action on that group’s behalf.
Why Does It Matter?
In today’s society where divisions by race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, and many other identities cause so much heartache, schools have an important role to play in bridging those divides. In addition to the long-term benefits of actual societal transformation, in the more immediate term, providing opportunities for students to connect with and understand each other can help cultivate a classroom and school climate where students feel safe and that they belong.