Affirmative Action gets an affirmative


Racial diversity conducive to complex thought, study suggests

When colleges advertise, they often use racial diversity as a selling point. But is a racially diverse environment really ideal for learning? Probably, according to a study conducted by Anthony Lising Antonio, Mitchell J. Chang, Kenji Hakuta, David A. Kenny, Shana Levin and Jeffrey F. Milem at the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, to be published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society.

The study took groups of three White students with similar views on one of two issues –either child labor or capital punishment – and matched them with a White or Black collaborator acting under the instructions of the researchers. The students would discuss their issue, and the collaborator would argue along carefully prescribed guidelines either in agreement with or opposed to the group opinion.

The study found that when the collaborator was Black, the other students rated his or her ideas as more novel, even when the collaborator held the same opinion as the rest of the group. In two of the three experimental conditions, students also demonstrated more complex reasoning when the collaborator was Black. Furthermore, students who had more racially diverse friends and classmates tended to show even higher levels of thinking, suggesting that long-term exposure to racial diversity may be even more beneficial to higher-order thought than is immediate immersion in a diverse environment.

In light of these results, we can glean that the mixing pot of cultures and ideas that American colleges strive to become does more than just look good; it promotes complex thinking. Diversity of ethnicities really does promote diversity of thought.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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