The unstereotype experiment
From a video by Unilever
If you could help to broaden the way people see themselves and the world around them, could they be more open to questioning how they might inadvertently stereotype people and will that help inclusivity?
There is an initiative at Unilever called Unstereotype. An experiment within the initiative explored whether DNA analysis, aimed at giving participants a greater insight into their origins, coupled with a workshop on behavioural change, could help to broaden the way people see themselves and the world around them.
Conducted by academics at University College London (UCL), the experiment showed a “statistically significant 35% reduction in stereotypical thinking” and a “significant change in original thinking”, amongst those who took part. The UCL study was conducted as a clinical trial with a control sample and strict adherence to UCL and global academic protocols.
In New York, London and Rotterdam, over 60 advertising and marketing professionals across Unilever and its lead agency partners - who work across 12 of Unilever’s brands - took part. All participants opted in to provide a DNA sample and each took part in pre-assessment to measure the extent of their stereotypical thinking prior to receiving their DNA results. The assumption was that DNA testing would prime and challenge the marketers to explore their own sense of identity and broaden the way they see themselves prior to an immersive workshop. Taking people on a journey through their own DNA profile created a moment of reappraisal and, in many cases, that realisation of their ancestry proved to be a great surprise to them. The immersive workshop with the UCL professors focused on a deeper understanding of how and when stereotypes are learnt; the brain mechanisms that govern them; and how we can unlearn stereotypical thought patterns to increase creative and inclusive thinking. Finally, the scientists retested the participants (and the control sample) post-workshop. Significant reductions were reported in their likelihood to stereotype people
Aline Santos, Unilever’s EVP of Global Marketing and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, said: “We are constantly innovating to find new ways to accelerate Unstereotype across our workforce and in our advertising. Becoming conscious of our blind spots and the biases that are holding us back is fundamental. It showed the need for us all to come to work as people first and marketeers second."
Watch this 5 min video: