Experience changes perception. Ideally, first-hand experience. My Brownie troop leader admitted to me, a second-grader, that until she found out I was Jewish, her perception was that all Jews had horns and tails. My perception of prison was altered by my spending a day inside the New Jersey State Prison.
Short of first-hand experience, virtual experience results in behavior change. This is why video games are proving effective in helping adolescent cancer and diabetes patients stick to their drug regimes.
The next-best thing to being there? Being transported into a situation through an engaging story. A story with a protagonist with whom you can identify; a story with just enough detail that you can imagine yourself seeing, feeling, smelling, and tasting what the protagonist is experiencing.
The April issue of the Harvard Business Review contains an interview with Jane Goodall, which touches on the issue of changing people's perceptions:
HBR: Your work requires persuading people to change when it may not be in their immediate best interest to do so. How do you do that?
Goodall: It's important to tell stories. Sometimes you're told you'll never change so-and-so's mind. But if you can be one-on-one with that person and tell a couple of stories....You usually can't change people's minds by the intellect. You've got to find something that reaches into their hearts. ...
HBR: How do you stay hopeful?
Goodall: ...[P]eople say you can't change somebody who's older than such and such an age, because they're set in their ways. It's not true. If you can find a story, if you can make them think and not be defensive, sometimes the toughest person can change.