Exposing the discriminatory actions has always been a difficult task because attitudes about race, gender, and other characteristics that serves the basis for differential treatment which are not easily observed or measured. Hence for many years now laboratories have been playing a useful role in the study of discrimination under conditions where experience and group identity can be partially measured and controlled, like an example of cleverly designed experiments allow one to distinguish the effects of one group from the effects of information based forms of discrimination.
Many experiments observed in psychology examine the effects of observed characteristics, like status or group identity, on the way subjects treat others. Groups divided can be based on survey responses or on observed traits like eye color. If deception is permitted, then the groupings can be made on random selection, even though people are told that the groupings are determined by some task or questionnaire, where the goal is to determine the extent to which people with high status or of one’s own group are treated differently in tasks related to money.
There have been many economics experiments that are to determine which discrimination arises from self-fulfilling expectations, considering an example; if workers in one group anticipate being discriminated against, a very few people like to invest in acquiring skills and, as a result, employers will observe systematic differences in investment decisions.
In classroom settings many successful experiments have been performed since the relatively neutral context and commonly shared classroom experience may allow for a more objective discussion of otherwise sensitive issues. In late 90’s discrimination experiments were done in classroom settings in a response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, a teacher of grade 3, Jane Elliott devised a simple classroom exercise to facilitate discussion of discrimination.
Experiment was followed as students were divided into two groups based on eye color, and it was announced that brown-eyed people would be superior to blue-eyed people that day. And the next day the roles would be reversed. Ms. Elliott elaborated that, What I mean is that brown-eyed people are better than blue-eyed people, they are cleaner than blue-eyed people, they are more civilized than blue-eyed people. Also that they are smarter than blue-eyed people. The brown-eyed children got to sit in the front of the room, to go to lunch first, and to have more time at recess. Blue-eyed students slumped in their chairs, as though they accepted their inferior positions whereas these behavioral differences were automatically reversed when the roles reversed the next day.