Nungsari, M., Flanders S., (2019). We are What We Aid: A Textual Analysis on the Effect of Short-Term Volunteering on Attitudes Towards Refugees.
Does brief exposure to a new and previously unencountered migrant community change the implicit biases towards said community? We conduct a pilot study with Malaysian citizens by exposing them to a few hours of volunteering with Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and study the effect of this treatment on their attitudes. We do this by conducting a textual analysis on transcripts of pre and post-volunteering group interviews. These changes in attitude are measured through pure valence and multiple measures of implicit bias, including the linguistic intergroup bias. We find that the attitudes of the volunteers became markedly more positive, and that these results are statistically significant. The estimated change in bias is 25% to 40% of the maximum possible measured change after less than 4 hours of exposure to a new group. Our results suggest that brief exposure to refugees may be a cost-effective policy lever for changing local perceptions of refugees.