Countering Bias and Discrimination

Understanding the psychological and neurobiological foundation of anti-Roma bias and discrimination

In conjunction with our partners E-Line Media (entertainment and education publisher) and Dr. Margareta Matache (Roma activist and scholar, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University), Mindbridge is designing innovative game-based interventions to celebrate Roma culture while countering anti-Roma bias and discrimination worldwide.

The Roma, or Romani, people are Europe’s largest ethnic minority, with a population of approximately 10–12 million people throughout EU member states. For generations, the Roma have experienced profound violence and discrimination, culminating in the mass killing of approximately one million Roma (20% of the Roma population) by the Nazi regime in WWII. Recent years have seen a resurgence in anti-Roma sentiment, including forced sterilization of Roma women, extensive segregation of Roma children in public schools, and calls for the extermination of Roma communities by leading political figures. These extreme examples punctuate a background of strong—and potentially increasing—discrimination across Europe, particularly in the realms of housing, healthcare, and education.

Recognizing the dire plight of the Roma people, two large-scale efforts to aid in Roma integration were recently established in Europe. Beginning in 2005, the Decade of Roma Inclusion was introduced, and in 2011, the European Commission adopted the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. Both efforts sought to address inequalities in access to education, healthcare, employment and other essential services.

However, the effectiveness of programs funded by these efforts were severely hampered by deep-seated anti-Roma prejudices pervading Europe. In 2014, the European Roma Right Centre (ERRC) published an assessment of Roma integration strategies. Given its findings, the ERRC questioned the degree to which progress could be made without more effective actions taken to understand and counter anti-Roma bias itself. Anti-Roma bias saps the political will necessary to fully implement laws and programs aimed at changing the status quo and seriously limits the effectiveness of programs if and when they are implemented. In order for Roma integration efforts to succeed, a thorough understanding of the psychological mechanisms driving anti-Roma bias and discrimination must be obtained.

In 2014, Mindbridge founder and director Laura Ligouri, in partnership with Cambridge-based NGO Beyond Conflict and MIT neuroscientist Dr. Emile Bruneau, launched a unique and innovative initiative: Addressing Political Will by Mitigating Anti-Roma Bias: Applying Science and Experience to Promote Roma Inclusion. This initiative employed advances in psychological and neurobiological research to uncover the cognitive/emotional underpinnings of discrimination engendered towards Roma communities throughout EU member states.

Piloted in Hungary, the study has been scaled throughout Europe, using data-driven insight to develop intervention strategies. Currently, Mindbridge—in conjunction with world-renowned game developer E-Line Media and Dr. Margareta Matache, Roma activist and scholar at Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights—is in the process of designing a series of anti-Roma bias interventions for international distribution.

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neuroscienceMindbridge is a not-for-profit organization connecting psychological and neurobiological insight to non-profit and government-sponsored humanitarian efforts.

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  • Engagement – project-specific study design
  • Assessment – individually tailored assessment tools
  • Ambassadorships – connecting research to organizations

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