By JR on Saturday, July 09, 2011
Equal rights organisations can actually encourage bigotry, a study claims. Groups which campaign on issues such as gender equality and gay rights have been found to worsen prejudice if they try to tell people how to think.
Presenting a more subtle argument was revealed as a more potent way of combating prejudice.
Canadian researchers gave students two brochures aimed at tackling on-campus prejudice. One took a forceful approach while the other encouraged independent thought. Results published in journal Psychological Science revealed that those who had been harangued demonstrated significantly more prejudice than those offered a less controlling approach.
Study author Dr Lisa Legault, from the University of Toronto Scarborough, suggested that equal rights campaigners may even encourage hostility towards the minorities they are seeking to protect.
She said: ‘People need to feel that they are freely choosing to be non-prejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them. ‘We need to focus on the reasons why diversity and equality are beneficial.’
Discussing how the findings could be used to inform future anti-prejudice campaigns, Dr Legault added: 'Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.
'But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them. 'We need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.'