Aim: In this introductory exercise the students are to experience how and why categorisation occurs, and how notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ can be constructed.

Requirements: Small paper dots with glue on one side to place on each participant’s forehead. The dots must be in at least five different colours. The best number of participants for doing this exercise is between 15 and 30.

The exercise prepares the students for topics addressed later in the session, such as questions connected to the minority/majority, stereotypes and prejudice, ‘othering’, discrimination and others.

  1. The session leader asks the participants to place themselves in a circle facing the session leader who stands in the middle. He/she says to the participants: I will soon ask you to close your eyes. You are not allowed to open your eyes until I say so. While you have your eyes closed, you will feel a soft touch against your forehead. Close your eyes please.       
  2. While the participants have their eyes closed, the session leader places a paper dot on their foreheads. The dots must be in different colours and some of the participants (e.g. 4-6) will receive the same colours. Two of the participants will be given dots with colours that nobody else has. NB: The persons chosen for this must have enough self-confidence to be able to stand alone outside the groups, which will be the result of the exercise. They must also be ready to talk a little bit about what they experienced during the exercise.  
  3. When everyone has been given a dot (still with their eyes closed) the session leader will say to them: When I say, “Open your eyes”, your task is to make groups. Open your eyes please.       

Usually the participants, after opening their eyes, will be unsure of what to do. However, after a short while, they will gather into groups. In 99 per cent of the cases, the participants with the same “dot colour” will go together. In a group of 25 participants, there will be a “blue”, a “red”, a “yellow” group and so on. Very often, the two persons with dot colours that differ from the rest will end up outside the groups or come together.

The session leader should take note of what happens while the participants are making groups. The observations may be useful in the discussion afterwards. Is anybody directing the others and taking the lead? Are the participants talking? [Often, they believe they are not allowed to speak, even if the session leader has said nothing about that]. What about the two people who have their own colour? Do they try to join some of the groups? What are the reactions? 

When the participants have formed their groups, the session leader opens for reflections. Often individual participants might be addressed with some short questions to start the reflection. The discussion and summing up can take place while all are the participants are standing on the floor.

 Usually the participants find the exercise and the questions interesting and have many comments. 


Remarks to conclude with:

This exercise can be used as an introduction to such topics as stereotypes and prejudices, minorities, ‘othering’ and discrimination. It will function well as a starting point for a lecture on the challenges and possibilities in multicultural societies, and the role of journalism and journalists in this context.