Classroom Activity 4: Prejudice Experiments

Classroom Activity 4: Prejudice Experiments

written by Amy C. Fineburg (2013, originally published 2013),

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Abstract / Summary
"Concept: This activity highlights the influence of institutional factors in prejudice. Students experience the ways in which differences in socioeconomic status can affect personal behavior. Materials: 4-6 sets of office supplies, with each set containing more supplies than the last. Example: o Set 1: two pieces of brown construction paper, a pencil, and a wire coat hanger o Set 2: two pieces of construction paper (any color), a pen, a pencil, a piece of string or ribbon, and a wire coat hanger o Set 3: four to six pieces of construction paper (multiple colors), colored pencils, several pieces of string/ribbon, scissors, and a plastic coat hanger o Set 4: a pack of construction paper, colored pencils, markers, spools of string and ribbon, scissors, tape, glue, glitter, stickers, and two plastic coat hangers. Description: Divide students into small groups of about 4-5 students in each group. Tell the class that they will be working in small groups to create a mobile depicting “tolerance.” They can only use the supplies they are given to make their group’s mobile. Then, give out the sets of supplies to each group. As students work on their mobiles, float amongst the groups praising the groups that have numerous supplies (“You all do such good work!”; “Look, everyone, at their creative design!”; “If you need a college recommendation, just come by and see me!”) and criticize the groups that have few supplies (“Why can’t you all do better work, like that group?”; “I don’t know why y’all even bother! This work is terrible!”). No matter what, show preferential treatment to the “have” group and discriminatory treatment to the “have-not” group. Once students finish their mobiles, have them present their mobiles to the class. End the simulation after the last group presents. Discussion: Lead the class in a discussion of what they experienced. Students in the groups tend to react similarly to people in everyday “have/have-not” situations. Some behaviors I have noticed over the years: o Have groups: may want to share with other groups (don’t let them do this!); often will make a horrible mobile because they know what they make will be praised regardless; report they are happy they were in the privileged group o Have-not groups: decry how unfair the assignment is; may try to overachieve to prove they can succeed in spite of the circumstances; may become argumentative; often disparage the teacher (humorously!) in their mobile; report feelings of anger and frustration after the simulation Ultimately, students report that they feel more empathy toward those with fewer resources after this activity. They realize the privilege of their own situations and appreciate the influence of situational factors on behavior."
Field of Interest
Amy C. Fineburg
Content Type
Instructional material
Related Web resources
Original Publication Date
Publication Year
Psychology, Social Sciences, Psychology & Counseling, Social Psychology, Blue Eyed Brown Eyed Experiment, Experimental Design, Observation Methods, Experimental Design, Observation Methods, Psicología Social, Psicologia Social, Jane Elliott, 1933-1861, Social Psychology, Prejudice
Keywords and Translated Subjects
Psicología Social, Psicologia Social

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