Correcting Misperceptions: An In-class Exercise for Reducing Population Innumeracy Using Student Response Systems and a Test of Its Effectiveness

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Teaching Sociology

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

The current analysis examines the degree to which a classroom activity using student response systems (SRS) can improve the accuracy of commonly held demographic misperceptions. Overestimation of religious, racial, and immigrant minority population sizes is pervasive in the United States and Western Europe, and such inaccuracies predict more negative intergroup attitudes. This study introduces an interactive SRS-based activity designed to teach students about demographic realities and then tests its effectiveness for correcting misperceptions. Experimental results indicate greater accuracy in students’ estimates of the Jewish and Muslim population sizes five weeks after taking part in the activity. Their perceptions were improved significantly relative to peers who participated in a non-SRS version of the exercise and to those who were absent on the day of the exercise. Overall, the results indicate that the sociology classroom, aided with SRS, can be an effective arena through which to combat demographic misperceptions and improve intergroup understanding.