Role-playing as an immigrant boosts confidence, study finds

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Games and role playing can build trust among immigrants and perhaps tolerance towards people from other countries, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Arkansas.

Researchers used Citizenship Quest, a role-playing game, in online US National Government lectures. Students participating in the play portrayed immigrants from Mexico, China and India. After playing, they reported significantly higher levels of trust in immigrants compared to students who did not play the game.

“The results show that role-playing as different people increases trust in diversity through the development of shared experiences,” said Brandon Bouchillon, assistant professor of journalism and strategic media at the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “This trust can extend to other apparently related groups, and to immigrants in general. Playing games like this can give new people confidence as a way to encourage various social contacts for the future.”

Political science professors Bouchillon and Patrick Stewart used the civic role-playing game in five parts of an online US National Government course: two in the fall of 2021 and three in the spring of 2022. sections from each semester A total of 68 students participated in the game and 77 students took part in the control group.

The students worked gradually throughout the game. In the first phase, they customized their character, which involved choosing a gender and being assigned a name from a list of the most popular names by country. Stage 2 involved developing the background of their characters. Students wrote about politics in their hometowns and why they immigrated to the United States. At the end of this phase, students have completed the Naturalization Application form or N-400.

In the third phase, participants simulated the voting process at local polling stations for the first time. They wrote about why they were proud to be U.S. citizens and identified what they thought was the most important political challenge facing their new community. In the fourth and final stage of the game, students took the citizenship test, which is the same test given by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A post-test was administered to all students in the last week of the course to measure the effects of the game. Students who played Citizenship Quest had significantly higher levels of confidence in immigrants than control groups. After the game was over, they showed faith in different kinds of people and reported that they trusted immigrants, especially from China, India, and the Middle East. Players also relied on Middle Eastern immigrants more willingly than control groups, despite the lack of Middle Eastern characters as part of the game.

“Affinity,” defined as a game’s ability to create a sense of being there, also had a strong influence on trust. Students who felt that Citizenship Quest was realistic, engaging, and engaging had higher average immigrant confidence values ​​than students in the control groups. Proximity was particularly valuable to rely on when acting as Chinese immigrants, the least visible group in the region among the three groups involved.

“Feeling immersed in the characters’ experience of positive attitudes towards outgroups,” Bouchillon said. “Users perceived their characters as entities with whom they had a meaningful relationship, but without their own personal identity. In other words, a second self.”

This is important because various social contacts in the US have been declining over the past 50 years, even as the US population has become more diverse and foreign nationals currently make up 14% of the country. Citizens seem to feel threatened by differences that lead to a lack of trust in new people. This may be especially true during crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, where prejudice and even violence against immigrants has increased.

Researchers’ study published Computers in Human Behavior.

More information:
Brandon C. Bouchillon et al., Computer games, trust and intimacy: role-playing as immigrants in the South, Computers in Human Behavior (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2022.107571

Provided by the University of Arkansas

Quotation: Role-playing as an immigrant builds confidence, findings study (2022, December 2) Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-role-playing-immigrant.html.

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