GOOD

German train station experiment uncovers a root cause of bias toward immigrants

Photo by XVla / Flickr

An ambitious scientific study conducted in Germany shows how discrimination can work on a spectrum. It also shows how anti-Muslim bigotry is affected by how much the target appears to have assimilated into mainstream society.

"It's a common argument, mainly by parties on the right, that immigrants are resistant to integrating," Nicholas Sambanis, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Los Angeles Times.

"They justify conflict and negative attitudes toward immigration and arguments to reduce immigration by referencing these fears that immigrants don't want to integrate," he continued.

To see whether an immigrants perceived adaptation of cultural norms affects the level of discrimination they face, Sambanis and two of his partners conducted a social experiment in 29 train stations that involved over 7,000 bystanders who unwillingly became test subjects.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers chose Germany because it's known for upholding a strict set of societal norms and also has the largest immigrant population in Europe.

RELATED: A drunk man was filmed harassing an immigrant on their train ride. The woman next to him responded in the most British way.

For the experiment, a man would drop a cup in the train station and a nonwhite woman who appeared to be a Muslim immigrant would ask him to pick it up. This signaled to the bystanders that she "shared their norms and was a civic-minded person," the study's authors wrote.

Shortly after, the woman's phone would ring and a bag of fruit she was holding would rip open, spilling the contents to the floor. After the spill, researchers would document how many bystanders rushed to help the woman.

The researchers changed the scenarios to determine how different variables affected the bystanders' reactions. About half the time, the immigrant woman wouldn't respond to the dropped cup and another researcher would ask the man to pick it up.

In some cases, the immigrant woman would answer her phone in German and other times a foreign language. They also tried different scenarios in which she wore secular clothing or her head was covered by a hijab.

In a different scenario, a white, German women played the role of the fruit-dropper.

RELATED: What this teen wants you to know about the hijab after her dad's text went viral

The results showed that people were more likely to help the woman when she appeared to be more assimilated into German culture.

When the orange-dropper was white and spoke German, bystanders helped her 78.3% of the time, and if the woman was nonwhite and appeared secular (no headscarf, spoke German) she was helped by just about the same percentage of people, 76.4%.

However, if she wore a headscarf, bystanders helped her only 66.3% of the time.

If the Muslim woman asked the man to pick up his trash, bystanders came to her aid 72.9% of the time; when she didn't, bystanders only helped 60.4% of the time.

A white German woman who did nothing to stop the cup-dropping man was helped about as often (73.3%) as the Muslim woman who went out of her way to do some social good.

Therefore, in order to receive the same treatment as the white woman, the Muslim woman had to first prove her social worthiness.

Finally, if the white woman asked the litterbug to pick up his trash, she received the most bystander help — a full 83.9% of the time.

The study clearly shows the unfortunate truth that, in Germany, Muslim people have to jump through an extra hurdle by displaying their social worthiness before the general public will treat them as equals.

However, there is a silver lining to the study.

The better we understand this type of bigotry, the greater opportunity we have to change people's attitudes. Not all discrimination is intentional, so by educating people on how immigrants share a common humanity with ethnic- or religious majority citizens, we can hopefully work to reverse this particular form of anti-immigrant sentiment.

Communities
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics