Parable of the Polygons: Interactive Exercise To Teach/Learn About Bias and Racial Segregation

Vi Hart and Nicky Case have created an interactive based on Nobel-Prize winning game theorist Thomas Schelling’s 1971 model of racial segregation.  The game is about how "harmless choices can make a harmful world,"
"a society of triangles and squares who are all only very slightly “shapist”: they actually prefer living in diverse neighborhoods, but they also demand that a certain proportion of their neighborhood are like them. The game starts with one simple rule: Shapes want to move if less than 1/3 of their neighbors are the same shape as them. The object of the game is to drag and drop unhappy polygons until they are all in a position that makes them happy."

The game makes three important points:

  1. Small individual bias can lead to large collective bias.
  2. The past haunts the present: "Your bedroom floor doesn't stop being dirty just coz you stopped dropping food all over the carpet. Creating equality is like staying clean: it takes work. And it's always a work in progress."
  3. Intervention is necessary to maintain diversity.
Go to to play the game!

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Frederique Laubepin

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