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New museum exhibit explores science of racism

‘Us and Them’ examines why prejudice persists

By
8:00am, May 14, 2017
Science of racism exhibit in Paris

BLACK AND WHITE  A new exhibit at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris asks visitors to confront their own prejudices. This “category cylinder” highlights the psychological tendency that people have to classify other people into discrete categories.

In a famous series of experiments conducted in the 1970s, social psychologist Henri Tajfel asked how little it would take to persuade one group of people to discriminate against another. The answer was almost nothing. Having assigned boys to two groups based largely on random criteria, he asked them to play a game. Each boy had to decide how many pennies to give to members of his own group and to members of the other group. Tajfel found that the boys were more generous toward their own group, even though the groups had been defined almost arbitrarily. Thus was born the concept of the “minimal group.”

Tajfel’s research informs a new, temporary exhibit at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Titled “Us and Them,” the exhibit explores the science of racism and prejudice. The question at its heart is why, when biologists have swept away the rationale for categorizing humans by race, does racism persist? The

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