Is hearing about someone or meeting them more powerful?

An article in the 17 May 2010 issue of The New Yorker, entitled The Poverty Lab, reports on an economist/professor at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts (US). Esther Duflo studies poverty and poor people. The article mentions an ongoing study in India that Dr. Duflo is conducting, in which she looks at what influences public perceptions of women political leaders. She is comparing perceptions of women in Indian villages that have had a woman political leader and villages that have not. Part of the study involves playing audio recordings of the same political speech, some versions delivered by a woman, other by a man. This is a recent study so the article did not report on any definite conclusions. A couple preliminary conclusions they have reached however:

Duflo found that, in villages that had never experienced women leaders, the hypothetical women speechmakers were judged to be less competent.

A related experiment involved interviewing villagers in multiple villages to ascertain their attitudes towards woman politicians. Some of the villagers would have watched a play about women and politics; others would not.

“If it (i.e., the play) has a positive effect, it  means we can educate people,” Duflo said. “If it has no effect, then it will be interesting, too, because it will show that you have to get them to experience women in action.”

These ideas resonate with some of what we teach in Social Role Valorization, such as:

• what factors influence how one person or group perceives another person or group

• role communicators

• the SRV theme of interpersonal identification

Posted on July 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink
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