Dr. Alauna Safarpour is an assistant professor of Political Science at Gettysburg College. Her research interests include race and ethnic politics, prejudice reduction, public opinion, and political participation. Prior to joining the faculty at Gettysburg College, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy and Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute. Her research has been published by multiple peer reviewed journals including Political Behavior, the Journal of Experimental Political Science, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Public Opinion Quarterly, Research and Politics, The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, The Conversation, and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.
Taking Perspective: Reducing Prejudice in Politics
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the persistent problems associated with racial prejudice and inequality in the US. Yet despite evidence that racial inequality and injustice endure, the American public’s support for policies addressing these problems remains low. My research introduces a new theory of prejudice reduction and the impact that reducing prejudice has on support for policies that aim to alleviate racial inequality.
So how do I actually go about reducing prejudice? My approach is rooted in findings from psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and the interventions are deployed entirely online. Specifically, my interventions have participants read scenes depicting the experience of racial bias from the perspective of a Black American, and then encourages them to make choices about how to respond to those encounters in order to move forward. The content of these interventions are based entirely on real events that have occurred in the past several years.
Through a series of experiments, I demonstrate that encouraging individuals to actively engage in understanding the experience of another can significantly reduce anti-Black prejudice. Remarkably, the positive effects of my interventions are greatest among the people who need it the most: namely those with the highest baseline levels of anti-Black prejudice. I also show how these simple, 10-minute interventions shift preferences that political scientists have long suspected are rooted in racism. Specifically, my interventions significantly increase support for policies aimed at addressing racial inequality in America- such as affirmative action, reparations, and efforts to reform policing practices.