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Stanford research team creates toolkits to help groups overcome biases and other social issues

SPARQ toolkits help people from different backgrounds and points of view find ways to reduce prejudice and resolve disagreements. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Jul 18 2018

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Faculty, In the News, Staff

A lab in the Psychology Department at Stanford has created a set of free toolkits to help people resolve complicated issues, including resources to help people deal with disagreements.

By Melissa De Witte

Tackling tough societal problems requires applying academic research findings to real-world situations. But translating from findings to solutions can be a daunting task. Now a team at Stanford has created a set of toolkits to help organizations bridge that gap.

The toolkits focusing on four areas – health, education, economic mobility and criminal justice – are available now through SPARQ: Social Psychological Answers to Real-world Questions, a program in the Psychology Department at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

In addition to tips, every kit includes a section that describes the relevant research about the topic in an accessible and relevant way.

“Our goal is to close what we call the ‘last mile problem’ in social science,” said Alana Conner, founding executive director of SPARQ. Faculty co-directors of the lab are psychology professors Jennifer Eberhardt and Hazel Rose Markus.

For example, Fishbowl Discussions, a toolkit developed with the Diversity and First-Gen Office (DGen) at Stanford, includes eight steps for a moderated discussion between groups whose members are divided acording to social identity – such as religion, gender, ethnicity, social class, political party or even college major. Participants then sit in two concentric circles – hence the name fishbowl – with the outside circle asking questions of people on the inside. A discussion then follows.

The aim is to put into practice research that suggests that members of different groups spending time together reduces prejudice toward each other.