Does DEI training activate racial prejudice?

Researchers say diversity training is harmful

David Haskell, an associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University,  wrote about he effects of “DEI training” for the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy.

While the “good” of DEI training remains elusive, the harms associated with such instruction are less equivocal.

DEI instruction has been shown to increase prejudice and activate bigotry among participants by bringing existing stereotypes to the top of their minds or by implanting new biases they had not previously held. Reviewing the related findings of past research, Dobbin and Kalev state: “Field and laboratory studies find that asking people to suppress stereotypes tends to reinforce them—making them more cognitively accessible to people.”21

For example, in a laboratory setting, a University of Toronto research team led by Lisa Legault (now at Clarkson University) determined that race-focused DEI campaigns that exert strong pressure on people to be non-prejudiced backfired, yielding heightened levels of bigotry.22

Similarly, for their landmark paper “Out of mind but back in sight: Stereotypes on the rebound,” the University of Aberdeen’s Neil Macrae and colleagues conducted experiments measuring the outcomes of DEI-type training that, like Legault et al., asked participants to reject prejudicial stereotypes. They confirmed that in trying to suppress bigotry, DEI-type training can activate it:

Indeed, this work suggests that when people attempt to suppress unwanted thoughts, these thoughts are likely to subsequently reappear with even greater insistence than if they had never been suppressed (i.e., a “rebound” effect).

… The results provide strong support for the existence of this effect… stereotype suppressors [those told to suppress their bias] responded more pejoratively to a stereotyped target on a range of dependent measures.23

Simply put, numerous studies show that when DEI-type workshop leaders instruct participants to suppress their biases—be they existing or newly implanted—many will cling to them more tightly and mentally generate additional justifications for their presence.24

What DEI research concludes about diversity training: it is divisive, counter-productive, and unnecessary

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments