How can we increase trust and reduce prejudice between different demographic groups? One simple hypothesis
that dates back to the 1950s is to increase contact between groups. It’s long been assumed that certain conditions are needed for this to work (e.g. the parties need to have common goals and mustn’t be in competition with each other) but it’s been hard to test. Matt Lowe has just published a paper that does exactly that
and it’s one of the most remarkable and ambitious social experiments I’ve ever seen.
Lowe ran a huge cricket league in India with 1,300 (!) participants who he randomly assigned to teams (or to a control group). He then randomly assigned those teams to play against each other. Crucially, the participants were from diverse castes, so he had set up a situation where he could test the contact hypothesis for caste within a team (i.e. where there’s a common goal) and between opponents (i.e. where there’s not). Lowe lays out his methodology very accessibly in this thread
The results are striking: people who played with members of another caste not only made friends with those people, but upgraded their view of the other caste in general. Of course, it’s not clear how applicable these results are outside cricket, but it’s worth reflecting on. Intergroup conflict is a stark fissure in contemporary politics, even or especially when there’s little contact between groups
. We can’t - alas - randomly assign the entire electorate to cricket teams, but there may be more we can do
to acquaint people from across divides with one another.