What really works to reduce stigma in the real world? – Monash lens

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With 2021 behind us, Australia’s Scanlon Foundation, as part of research conducted by Monash University, released its annual report Mapping of the social cohesion report.

This year, in response to the question “How much of a problem is racism in Australia?” ”60% of Australians have been found to think it is“ very big ”or“ quite big ”.

This is an “important aspect” which “seems to call into question the positive indication of the national state of mind,” the report said.

He explained :

“In 2020, the proportion indicating that it was a ‘very big problem’ or ‘quite a big problem’ was stable: 39% in July and 40% in November. In 2021, however, it was significantly higher at 60%. A 20 percentage point increase in response to a blanket question of this nature is almost unprecedented. “

The timing of the “substantial” change in prejudices is “difficult to explain … [as it was] recorded in July 2021, but not in previous surveys in 2020 when the discussion of racism was at least as important, brought to attention by a number of events, including the Black Lives Matter protests, which were in their peak in May-June 2020 ”.

He says the distinction between overseas-born Australians and born Australians has not provided a clear answer.

We found that of the thousands of studies seeking to reduce stigma, only 69 “interventions” were tested in real settings.

“While a higher proportion of foreign-born people see racism as a big problem, including 69% of those born in an Asian country, 57% of those born in Australia agree, an increase by 20 percentage points since November 2020. “

Moreover, it is not surprising that Australians of non-English speaking origin reported the highest level of discrimination.

In November, The Guardian reported a new incident of racism involving African-born customers racially profiled at a suburban convenience store chain.

Bias is a pervasive and important problem

To address this, it’s important to start by understanding what really works to reduce stigma in the real world. A significant amount of anti-bias research is conducted in contexts that are unlike the everyday contexts where bias can arise. Instead, they are tested in controlled environments.

Only one small subset of to research involves field experiments and real-world testing, and can therefore identify what works in real-world contexts.

With my co-authors, Monash’s Professor Rebecca Wickes and BehaviorWorks / Monash’s Dr Nicholas Faulkner, I reviewed the available evidence of bias reduction interventions that have been tested in field experiments in our recently published article. Our meta-analysis covering more than 24,000 participants is published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

We have found that of the thousands of studies seeking to reduce stigma, only 69 ‘interventions’ have been tested in real conditions and have used experiments, or ‘randomized controlled trials’, which give us the best indication of what is happening. actually works.

The most effective interventions

Our review indicated where there is the most evidence on effective bias reduction interventions for certain cohorts using certain approaches.

The most common approach tested in the real world is based on “contact theory” – this is an intervention aimed at reducing prejudice by creating opportunities to be in contact with someone from a family. different group.

This includes all forms of contact, such as direct or face-to-face contact, extended contact through movies or books, and virtual contact through non-face-to-face channels, such as instant messaging.

The second most common approach is what we call “awareness”. These are interventions where the mechanism for reducing bias is to improve someone’s understanding of what bias is, the errors of stereotypical views and negative consequences.

Much of what we found using these two approaches involved elementary and high school students.


Read more: Ripple Effect: The Social Consequences of “Everyday” Hate Crimes


Perhaps equally interesting was what our review did not find – there was little evidence of interventions tested with adults in general community settings.

Given how little we are learning about how to reduce prejudice in adults, it may not be surprising at all that there are continuing reports of prejudice and discrimination.

It is also important that we found that discussion was almost universally absent regarding the scalability of interventions or the ability of programs and interventions to increase their reach and impact.

For interventions to have a lasting impact in the real world, scientific research on implementation indicates that it is not enough to just look at effectiveness; it is also necessary to consider scalability.

We believe that in order to truly have an impact on stigma in the real world, more effort needs to be made to research what works to reduce stigma among adults in community settings, and in ways that may have good potential. scaling – and these surveys should be tested in environments as close to the real world as possible.


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