How do you improve empathy and understanding? You ask
Impact of KUOW ‘Ask A…’ Events
Valerie Manusov University of Washington Communications Danny Stofleth Phd.
We have results from 12 “Ask A” sessions (with Muslims [two groups], transgender people, Trump supporters, police officers, formerly homeless, newcomers, immigrants, gun owners, foster parents, journalists, and Special Olympic athletes), representing the two “rounds” of the events in which data were collected. Results showed that the more askers (N = 113) felt they knew a group beforehand, the more empathy they had for the group; empathy and attitudes were also correlated positively (i.e., if people reported being high in one, they were high in the other, and vice versa), and attitudinal positivity and nervousness were correlated negatively (the more positive the attitude, the less nervous people were about interacting with members of the group). Reported positive attitude, empathy for the group, and knowledge of the group all went up when assessed immediately after the interaction, suggesting an immediate, positive impact for the Ask A sessions. People’s attitudes remained significantly more positive than pre-interaction when assessed after 3-months, suggesting lasting and beneficial effects for this type of community interaction experience.
To assess whether it worked the same for all groups, and to see if people came into the interactions with different views, we looked at the 12 groups separately (on the already mentioned variables as well as some others), and saw some notable findings.
• Askers noted that they were particularly surprised about what they learned from the gun owners, immigrants, and newcomers as assessed right after the session.
• Attitudes toward gun owners were somewhat low going in but, as with the others, went up and stayed up (though only were neutral at 3 months). Overall, askers felt that their impression changed more for this group than any other (transgender people and police officers were the next highest).
• Attitudes toward and empathy for Muslims increased even more 3 months after compared to right after the event, whereas the others stayed the same or went down a bit from the post-interaction assessment.
• Askers’ reported knowledge going into the Special Olympians’ session was the highest of all groups but got even higher both immediately after and (though less so) 3 months following the session.
• In most cases, people said that they were not nervous about talking to the groups. Means scores for those interacting with transgender persons were the only ones that reflected nervousness, but their scores on attitude, knowledge, and empathy went up the most for this group when comparing pre- and immediate post-interaction.
• Those interacting with Trump supporters, as with gun owners, had more negative pre-interaction attitudes toward the group as compared to the other groups, though their initial empathy toward the group was somewhat high. As with the other groups, attitudes toward Trump supporters went up and stayed up, but the means still stayed below the scale midpoint (i.e., in the negative range), and this was the only group where this occurred.
The participants reported a great deal of sharing of their experiences with ‘Ask A’ with others who did not participate in the workshops.
• Nearly all Askers and Answerers who responded to the 3-months post-survey reported that they did talk to others about their ‘Ask A’ experience. In total, 104 answered “Yes,” while just one reported not talking with others about it.
• The majority of individuals (42) reported talking with between 5-10 people about the experience. Another 32 reported talking about it with 10 or more people.
• Many reported sharing their experiences through various social media platforms. Twenty reported that they shared on Facebook, seven on Twitter, and one on Instagram. Some who shared on these platforms estimated that their stories reached thousands of individuals.
Askers were also asked how they characterized their ‘Ask A’ experience when speaking to others about it. This was rated on a scale of 1 to 7, one being very negative and seven being very positive. When summed as one whole across these 12 workshops, the overall average reported was a 6. This indicates that others spoke very highly of the ‘Ask A’ project when discussing it with others.”