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Racial Attention Deficit: White Americans Pay Less Attention To Black Peers, Finds New Study

Ethnic diversity provides learning opportunities by bringing together variety in perspectives, experiences, and skills. Despite diversity’s benefits, evidence points to racial disparities when it comes to whose opinions are valued. A new study has found patterns of racial attention deficit, revealing that white Americans pay less attention to their Black peers, even when in their self-interest.

Dr. Sheen S. Levine, assistant professor at the The University of Texas at Dallas and researcher at Columbia University, who is the lead author of this study, shares that in his conversations with people from ethnic minorities, many felt that the push for diversity has allowed them a foot in the door, yet they “don’t really get a seat at the table.”

The multi-year experimental study gathered over 2,500 White, working age American men and women, who were presented with a puzzle specifically designed to evaluate their decision-making around fictional peers — whose input was necessary to solve the puzzle. By varying the race of these peers, the researchers could examine whether participants were more likely to dismiss information from one racial group. They found that the white participants are 33% more likely to pay attention to and learn from white peers compared to Black ones.

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