concentrated poverty. Placed-based investments can help ensure
To put that science into practice, Smedley’s organization has
poor neighborhoods enjoy the same amenities, such as grocery
stores, as their better-off counterparts. People-based strategies
include investment in early childhood education and the
promising strategy of “housing mobility.”
A randomized controlled trial conducted by the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example,
found that poor families who got help in moving out of high-
poverty neighborhoods were less likely to suffer from obesity,
diabetes and other health problems 15 years later. Public policy
could also help poor families stay in their own communities as
they undergo transformation, added Smedley.
19 “Place Matters” teams working around the country to raise
awareness of place’s impact on health and push for policy and
systems changes to improve local conditions.
Reducing racial bias
Patricia G. Devine, PhD, a University of Wisconsin at Madison
psychology professor, described how she became committed
to the idea of transforming her basic science research into
interventions that could improve people’s lives.
Early in her career, Devine conducted research proving that
even well-intentioned people can still harbor unconscious racial
prejudice. Once she discovered that prejudice was a habit, she
thought her work was done. It wasn’t.
“Reporters came calling, wanting to know how to help
people reduce prejudice … but I realized I didn’t have good
advice to give them,” said Devine. “Like many of my generation,
I thought my job was to do the elegant, theoretically driven,
carefully conducted empirical science, leaving it to others to do
Realizing the hollowness of her responses to those eager
to reduce discrimination, Devine had a change of heart. “I
started to think, ‘Why not me?’” she said. “I might be in the best
position to think about how to solve this problem.”
In the first stage, Devine conducted the basic research
behind her model of prejudice as a habit that can be broken
when people feel guilty enough to try to change their
The next step was to create an intervention designed to help
people break the prejudice habit. Participants get feedback on
their scores on a test of implicit bias, learn why bias persists
despite good intentions, and are told about the consequences
of prejudice in relationships, hiring and even the provision of
life-saving treatment in emergencies. Participants also receive
a toolkit with strategies for breaking the prejudice habit in
Devine found that the intervention has lasting positive
effects on people’s attitudes, primarily via people’s recognition
of the connection between their own attitudes and societal
It also changes behavior, she has found. In a study aimed
at decreasing gender bias in science/technology/engineering/
mathematics disciplines, for example, Devine found that
departments that participated in a variation of her intervention
were more likely to hire women even two to three years later.
She also developed train-the-trainer materials so others
could deliver the intervention.
“Social psychology for a long time has been really insular,”
said Devine, noting that the field has often viewed the media as
an enemy. “We need to communicate beyond the walls of our
discipline about what it is we do and why it’s important.”
Overcoming hysteria about drugs
Racial bias also plays out on a national scale, through U.S.
continued from page 36
Dr. Carl Hart said that racial bias plays out on a
national scale through U.S. drug policies.
PUBLIC INTEREST LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
“We need to communicate beyond the walls of
our discipline about what it is we do and why it’s
important,” says Dr. Patricia G. Devine.