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Developing a More Inclusive Social Identity: An Elementary School Intervention


  • This research was supported by NIMH Grant MH 48721 to Samuel L. Gaertner and John F. Dovidio and by a Fellowship to the Institute For Advanced Study from the University of Delaware to Samuel L. Gaertner. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Kathie Stamm, and the members of the NCCJ Green Circle staff who helped make this research possible including: Beth Benson, Mary Browne, Mary Ann Dilworth, Lora Engleheart, and Evelyn Lobel.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Samuel L. Gaertner, Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19711 [e-mail:].


School integration, stimulated by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Educationdecision, has influenced students' social and educational experiences. Drawing on practice and theory, we focus on strategies for improving intergroup relations. In a series of sessions over four-weeks, 830 first and second grade children participated in Green Circle program activities designed to widen their circles of inclusion to include people who are different from themselves. Although the intervention did not influence children's biases in sharing or how happy they would be playing with others who were different from themselves based on race, sex, and weight, it did lead them to be more inclusive in selecting their most preferred playmate. Implications for friendship development and improvement in intergroup attitudes are considered.

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win-
We drew a circle that took him in.

               —Edwin Markham (1936, p. 67)