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We’re dedicating this week’s issue to a singular topic: diversity training. We know that companies spend over $8 billion a year educating their employees on overcoming stereotypes, identifying biases, and improving attitudes and behaviors towards women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community. So, we’d like to know: is diversity training effective? What works at changing people’s behaviors, individual attitudes, and organizational cultures? Let’s dive into the research.

The Effectiveness of One-Time Diversity Training

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a large field study to identify whether the traditional, one-time online diversity training offered by many organizations was effective at improving employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward women and racial minorities. Their results suggest that “the one-off diversity trainings that are commonplace in organizations are not panaceas for remedying bias in the workplace” (p. 7778) and that it “may be too much to expect short one-off diversity trainings to have robust enduring effects on behavior” (p. 7781). Instead, they recommend that “more effortful interventions,” like recruiting women and under-represented minorities to leadership roles, should be implemented to “robustly change employee behavior” (p. 7781).

Key Takeaway: Something more substantial than a one-time training will be needed to promote equality in the workplace.

Read More (Open Access): Chang, E.H., Milkman, K.L., Gromet, D.M., Rebele, R.W., Massey, C., Duckworth, A.L., & Grant, A.M. (2019). The mixed effects of online diversity training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16), 7778-7783.

Organizational Identification and Training Effectiveness

What role does organizational identification (i.e., employees' sense of oneness with their organization) play in employees’ participation in voluntary diversity training and their subsequent knowledge transfer and behavioral intentions? The findings from one study, reported in 2020, indicate that “organizational identification is a predictor of diversity training effectiveness, even after controlling for demographic‐based identities and motivation to learn” (p. 474). The researchers suggest that organizations should increase employees’ sense of belonging as one tactic to enhance the benefits of diversity training.

Key Takeaway: “Organizations that invest in their employees through wellness programs, attractive benefits, and overall respectful treatment may be able to increase employees' organizational identification, which should in turn increase the return on investment of diversity-related training interventions” (p. 475).

Read More ($): Rawski, S.L. & Conroy, S.A. (2020). Beyond demographic identities and motivation to learn: The effect of organizational identification on diversity training outcomes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 41(5), 461-478.

Experiential and Educational Exercises to Reduce Microaggressions

In a 2020 study, researchers examined whether a diversity workshop that incorporated contextual behavioral science could be impactful at reducing racism and subsequent microaggressions in college students. The results of the small study indicated that the “racial harmony workshop,” which was designed to increase connectedness across racial groups using principles and techniques from Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), was effective at increasing white participants’ positive feelings towards their Black counterparts and decreasing their likelihood of committing microaggressions.

Key Finding: Racism is often the result of deeply-held (and sometimes unconscious) beliefs; empirical research has proven repeatedly that traditional diversity training methods aren’t always effective at effecting long-lasting changes in behavior. Incorporating psychology into the instructional design methodology can be one way to achieve the desired results.

Read More ($): Williams, M.T., Kanter, J.W., Peña, A., Ching, T.H.W., & Oshin, L. (2020). Reducing microaggressions and promoting interracial connection: The racial harmony workshop. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 16, 153-161.

Recommendations for Anti-Bias Training

While there are more questions than answers when it comes to what works for anti-bias training, there are resources for organizations looking to impact meaningful change. One report we’ll recommend: a field review published in 2020 that provides evidence-based recommendations that organizations and facilitators can use as a blueprint for creating anti-bias training programs that work. Definitely worth checking out.

Key Finding: Couple investment in anti-bias training with other diversity and inclusion initiatives to help ensure that the billions spent each year yield meaningful change.

Read More (open): Carter, E. R., Onyeador, I. N., & Lewis, N. A., Jr. (2020). Developing & delivering effective anti-bias training: Challenges & recommendations. _Behavioral Science & Policy, 6(_1), 57–70.

LSW Podcast: Episodes 7 and 8 Now Available

We've chatted recently with Patti Shank, Ph.D. and Luke Yoquinto on our podcast. Check out all of the previous episodes on our website, and stay tuned for our next episode with Mirjam Neelen!

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week we’re featuring Flower, who passed away last year but lives on in reader Sarah P.'s heart. Flower was a beautiful horse!

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Julia Huprich, Ph.D. Our head of growth and community is Julieta Cygiel.

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