Would you like to play a game? Imagining playing a videogame with a transgender individual to reduce prejudice long-term.

Project background

This project will produce a lasting, cost-effect method of reducing prejudice towards transgender individuals, by using an imagined scenario in which individuals play video cooperative video games together.

Transgender individuals have a long history of experience prejudicial attitudes and behaviour. In a recent report, 4 in 5 transgender individuals had experience transphobia Bradley, 2020, and the BBC reports that transphobic hate crimes have quadrupled in the last five years Chapple, 2020. In the absence of direct aggression, microaggressions towards transgender individuals – even when unintentional – are common Chang & Chung, 2015. There is clearly an impetus to investigate ways in which transgenderism can be normalised and moved away from the periphery in modern society.

One general method to reduce prejudice is contact – getting individuals in opposing groups to work together on a task. This has been shown to be effective in numerous studies. (e.g Alperin et al., 2014). An extension to this is imagined contact , where participants create a contact experience within their mind’s eye. This too has been shown to be effective in reducing prejudice (Crisp & Turner, 2009).

One problem with imagined contact is that it is not very engaging or enjoyable for participants. Most studies ask participants to just imagine a conversation with an outgroup member. To work well, contact (imagined or not) need to be motivating and engaging (Ron, Solomon, Halperin, & Saguy, 2017)

Another problem is how long-lasting any change in prejudice is. Most studies measure prejudice within the lab, but do not take any follow up measures. So, it is unclear whether participants’ prejudice remains reduced. Studies are also reliant on explicit measures of prejudice (e.g. survey scales) and do not tap into participants’ true feelings.

Overview

This project will address all these issues using two highly novel experimental studies where participants will imagine playing a cooperative video game with a transgender individual. Explicit and implicit measures will be taken, both immediately after the session and one week later. Specific instructions will be given to create feelings of trust and empathy towards the transgender partner. This has been shown to reduce prejudice in previous contact experiments. (e.g. Pettigrew & Tropp, 2008) Measures will be taken to see how engaging/enjoyable participants find the experience, and whether they would participate in imagined contact outside of the immediate experimental situation (Meleady et al., 2017) These data will then be factored into a causal prediction model to examine what effect they have. As yet, no other researcher has diversified the imagined contact research in this way, making this project unique.

Ultimately, this project will examine a method of reducing prejudice towards an at-risk population, which can easily be implemented in almost any setting. It is hoped the findings of this project can be widely disseminated outside of academic fields, to support groups who seek to promote harmony towards their members.

Methodology

Study 1…

will examine how different imagined game types may impact on prejudice reduction, and imagined game playing will be compared against more conventional “imagined contact” scenarios.

Participants will be given one of the following scenarios to envisage:

  1. Imagined video game play – violent game

Working with a transgender individual to progress in a violent shooting game (e.g Gears of War)

  1. Imagined video game play – calm game

Working with a transgender individual to progress in a calm, relaxing game (e.g. Stardew Valley)

  1. Imagined contact

Having a conversation with a transgender individual (NB this corresponds to the “traditional” imagined contact manipulation)

  1. Control

Participants imagine a pleasant outdoor scenario; transgender individuals are not mentioned

Study 2…

will use three scenarios:

  1. imagined gaming

Using whichever game type was shown to be most effective in study 1

  1. Imagined contact

  2. Control

Measures will be taken immediately after imagining the scenario, and one week later to examine the persistence of any prejudice change.

Main measures (see pre-registration documents for a full list with sources):

  • Explicit prejudice survey measures

  • Implicit prejudice - participants will be asked to write a short paragraph detailing their thoughts regarding the outgroup, which can then be coded for valence.

  • Intergroup anxiety

  • Empathy

  • Trust of their partner

  • Opinion of the imagined tasks (e.g. how enjoyable, engaging etc.)

  • Control variables (e.g. age, gender etc)

Sample size

A power analysis was performed for both studies to find a medium effect size (f=.25) with 80% power. Study 1 = 180, study 2 = 120 participants minimum.

To ensure sufficient data, taking account of incomplete responses etc, we wish to double this number for each study – 600 participants total (study 1 = 360, study 2= 240)

Costs

Study 1 – 20 minutes, £7.50 an hour = £1200

Study 2 – 20 minutes, £7.50 an hour, each participant responding twice = 800 x 2 = £1600

Total requested = £2800

Dissemination

Findings will be disseminated in the following way:

  • A pre-print will be created via PsyArxiv, for dissemination via social media channels

  • Findings will be publicised to the national press via press release, coordinated by the lead researcher’s institute’s public relations team.

  • An article will be submitted to a leading open access academic journal

  • Findings will be presented at a key UK psychology conference (e.g. the British Psychological Society Cyberpsychology Section)

  • A public-engagement event, hosted at the lead researcher’s institution. Local organisations who may be interested in the findings will be invited to attend

Open Science

All materials, instructions, and data-sets generated from the project will be available via the Open Science Framework for download or use by other researchers.

This project has been pre-registered at AsPredicted.