Playing below the poverty line: Investigating an online game as a way to reduce prejudice toward the poor


A plethora of research indicates that viewing media can reduce prejudice. Emerging work on computer gaming shows that games can also influence social attitudes. The present studies investigated the influence of an interactive computer game about living in poverty on attitudes and beliefs about the poor. Playing the poverty game was compared to playing a control game and merely observing the poverty game. In Study 1, playing an interactive poverty game did not influence attitudes while watching someone else play the game increased positive attitudes, empathic concern, and support for government-funded anti-poverty policies. In Study 2, meritocracy beliefs moderated the influence of the game; people lower in meritocracy showed less positive attitudes toward the poor after playing the poverty game. This effect was mediated by an increase in the belief that poverty is personally controllable. Future directions for and implications of studying the unique intergroup effects of games are discussed.

Prejudice/stereotyping; controllability; media; poverty; attitude change
Author biographies

Gina Roussos

Gina Roussos, M.S. is a social psychology graduate student at Yale University, studying with Dr. John Dovidio and Dr. Yarrow Dunham. She is interested in the antecedents and consequences of prejudiced attitudes and beliefs and how these attitude and beliefs can ultimately be changed. She examines attitudes toward a number of stigmatized groups, including women, poor people, over-weight people, and people of color. She is currently a Graduate Policy Fellow with the Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale.

John F. Dovidio

John F. Dovidio, Ph.D. is a Carl Iver Hovland Professor of Psychology and Public Health and Dean of Academic Affairs of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale University. His work centers around issues of social power and social relations, both between groups and between individuals. He explores both conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) influences on how people think about, feel about, and behave toward others based on group membership.

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