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Rail stops become labs for Harvard research

Riders’ attitudes toward immigration changed after immigrants appeared at several MBTA commuter rail stations.
Riders’ attitudes toward immigration changed after immigrants appeared at several MBTA commuter rail stations.JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF

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Forget, for a moment, all the usual benefits of public transportation, like cutting greenhouse gases and reducing traffic. There is a new reason to ride the commuter rails: It provides an excellent laboratory for studying human behavior.

The most recent such study, conducted on a commuter rail platform, finds that mixing with people of different ethnic backgrounds can influence social acceptance, at first for the worse, but then for the better.

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