The Problem With Prejudice
How making generalizations about other people can backfire
T’S NATURAL TO MAKE assumptions, but don’t overdo it. Harboring pre- conceived ideas about people—whether due to their occupation, their clothing, or even their (young) age—can cause you to miss opportunities, according to a new study in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers from ETH Zurich, a science and technology university in
Switzerland, used game theory to test
simulated characters’ willingness to
cooperate with others, creating vari-
ILLUSTRATION BY SCOTTY REIFSNYDER
ous computer scenarios and playing
them 15 million times. In long-lasting
games, prejudiced characters missed
more chances for cooperation, while
those who took time to understand
other characters found more collaborative opportunities.
People who are prejudiced ;“per-form poorly in complex situations
because they fail to incorporate
nuances or changes,” explains researcher Thomas Chadefaux, Ph. D.
That means they can misinterpret
behaviors. So whether you’re meeting your new neighbors or recruiting
volunteers, take time to learn more.
That rough-looking guy with the
Mohawk may actually be pretty nurturing. —Leslie Quander Wooldridge