Interethnic Contact and Impact on Attitudes
- LAST REVIEWED: 02 March 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0239
- LAST REVIEWED: 02 March 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0239
The study of intergroup contact was triggered by anecdotal evidence of members of a dominant group shielding and helping members of minorities from violence in the context of riots, as well as during the Holocaust. These stories indicated that prior positive relationships such as friendships preceded these protective acts on the part of majority-group members. Given this evidence, scholars in psychology sought to explore whether positive intergroup contact could reduce out-group prejudice among members of a majority group. Early studies by Robin Murphy Williams (The Reduction of Intergroup Tensions, 1947) and Goodwin Watson (Action for Unity, 1947), among others, were systematized and conceptually organized in Gordon Allport’s seminal The Nature of Prejudice (Allport 1954, cited under General Overviews). In this enduring work, Allport set forth the “contact hypothesis” and identified likely preconditions for the emergence of the expected positive effects of intergroup interactions. According to Allport, intergroup contact can reduce or eliminate prejudice and discrimination against minorities by leading to the rejection of stereotypical views of out-groups. In this view, ongoing and positive interactions with members of out-groups lead to more tolerance in attitudes and behavior because contact encourages empathy and positive affect toward minorities. However, Allport cautioned that not just any interaction would produce a contact effect—the interactions had to be meaningful and positive. Simple exposure to members of out-groups was not sufficient to produce empathy and induce tolerance. Furthermore, the positive effects of intergroup contact might not materialize in the context of major power differences between groups, intergroup competition, or a lack of common goals—or if tolerance was not sanctioned by trusted elites among the majority group. In time, Ulrich Wagner, Miles Hewstone, and Uwe Machleit’s article “Contact and Prejudice between Germans and Turks” (1989) added voluntary contact, a common language, and a prosperous economy; while Rachel Ben-Ari and Yehuda Amir’s “Contact between Arab and Jewish Youth in Israel” (1986) added prior views of intergroup members not being strongly negative to the conditions of contact. Since the publication of Allport’s book, an extensive scholarship has developed testing the contact hypothesis observationally and experimentally, identifying its limitations, and specifying the mechanisms through which it works and the conditions under which it may be more likely for contact effects to emerge. Much of this research was conducted by Thomas Pettigrew, one of Allport’s students. Not only did Pettigrew elaborate and refine the contact paradigm, he has also produced a series of meta-analyses that summarize our understanding of contact and its direct, indirect, and secondary effects, as well as the impact of both positive and negative contact on intergroup prejudice. In recent years, sociologists and political scientists have also explored the effects of intergroup contact on attitudes toward minorities and policy preferences.
Since the publication of Allport 1954, many researchers have found that increased contact with out-group members reduces prejudice toward that out-group. Much of the research on contact was conducted by Thomas Pettigrew and his various collaborators. Pettigrew 1986 and Pettigrew 1998 put forth a theory of necessary and facilitative conditions for the emergence of positive contact effects. In this view, potential for friendship is a necessary precondition for contact to produce tolerance. Friendships lead to in-group and out-group reappraisals, new affective ties, learning about the out-group, and change in behavior toward members of out-groups. In his later research with Linda Tropp (Pettigrew and Tropp 2006) and other collaborators (Pettigrew, et al. 2011, cited under Meta-analyses and Literature Reviews), Pettigrew provided evidence that Allport’s preconditions were facilitative but not necessary for contact-induced tolerance to emerge. Even in the absence of these conditions, intergroup contact still yields a reduction in prejudice, albeit not as large. Many researchers have confirmed this finding: increased contact with out-group members reduces prejudice. Sigelman and Welch 1993 shows that intergroup contact between whites and blacks is associated with more positive racial attitudes; this finding was particularly strong for whites. In a longitudinal study, Sidanius, et al. 2008 found that having interracial roommates in college was also associated with a significant reduction in racial prejudice. Moreover, Schafer 1997 provided nuance; although intergroup contact changed the negative image of an out-group, it did not change policy preferences. Forbes 1997 determined that while individual-level relations could be positive, contact may not have the same effect on group-level relations. The effects of contact are not limited to racial/ethnic groups alone. Broockman and Kalla 2016 found that having conversations with both transgender and non-transgender individuals about transgender peoples’ experiences reduces transphobia. Tadlock, et al. 2017 furthered this line of research by extending the positive results to include support for transgender rights. Binder, et al. 2009 challenged the causal direction. More recent research has also argued that the opposite causal relationship may also be true. For instance, Binder, et al. 2009 found that preexisting prejudice reduces the likelihood of intergroup contact. The list below includes works that provide evidence of the positive effects of contact as well as meta-analyses of research on contact theory. Most recently, Pettigrew and Hewstone 2017 urged researchers to not only look at either positive or negative contact separately, but at the same time as well.
Allport, Gordon W. The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 1954.
A seminal work that sets up the contact hypothesis and proposes the conditions of intergroup contact to reduce prejudice.
Binder, Jens, Hanna Zagefka, Rupert Brown, et al. “Does Contact Reduce Prejudice or Does Prejudice Reduce Contact? A Longitudinal Test of the Contact Hypothesis among Majority and Minority Groups in Three European Countries.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96.4 (2009): 843–856.
Research based on longitudinal panel data that shows the nonrecursive nature of the relationship between intergroup contact and prejudice.
Broockman, David, and Joshua Kalla. “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science 352.6282 (2016): 220–224.
Using a field experiment, this study examines positive effects of contact on reducing transphobia.
Brown, R., and M. Hewstone. “An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Contact.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 37 (2005): 255–343.
A comprehensive review of several moderating and mediating factors on the effects of intergroup contact.
Eller, Anja, and Dominic Abrams. “Come Together: Longitudinal Comparisons of Pettigrew’s Reformulated Intergroup Contact Model and the Common Ingroup Identity Model in Anglo-French and Mexican-American Contexts.” European Journal of Social Psychology 34.3 (2004): 229–256.
This study is an extension of Pettigrew’s model using panel data. The findings suggest that cognitive and affective factors mediate the relationship between intergroup friendship and tolerance.
Forbes, H. D. Ethnic Conflict: Commerce, Culture, and the Contact Hypothesis. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.
Forbes examines critically each necessary condition of the contact theory and argues the positive effects of contact are mainly contextual. He differentiates between individual-level and group-level analysis of contact and answers the question of why contact could improve individual relations but exacerbate group relations.
Pettigrew, Thomas F. “The Intergroup Contact Hypothesis Reconsidered.” In Contact and Conflict in Intergroup Encounters. Edited by Miles Hewstone and Rupert Brown, 169–195. Social Psychology and Society. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
This study reviews the origins and macro contexts of the contact hypothesis and moves toward an extended generic theory of intergroup contact.
Pettigrew, Thomas F. “Intergroup Contact Theory.” Annual Review of Psychology 49.1 (1998): 65–85.
This is an extensive review of the literature on intergroup contact.
Pettigrew, Thomas F., and Miles Hewstone. “The Single Factor Fallacy: Implications of Missing Critical Variables from an Analysis of Intergroup Contact Theory.” Social Issues and Policy Review 11.1 (2017): 8–37.
This article advises researchers to take into account joint effects of contact in their analyses and not to fall in the single factor fallacy.
Pettigrew, Thomas F., and Linda R. Tropp. “A Meta-Analytic Test of Intergroup Contact Theory.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90.5 (2006): 751–783.
Through an extensive meta-analysis, the authors establish the significant effect of intergroup contact to lessen prejudice under broader conditions.
Schafer, Mark. “Cooperation in an Objective Conflict of Interest? Testing Two Psychological Approaches.” Journal of Politics 59.3 (1997): 729–750.
This study investigates the effects of intergroup contact and individual-difference variables on cooperative policy preferences. Findings show intergroup contact has a positive effect on changing the images of the out-group but has no effect on policy preferences.
Sidanius Jim, Shana Levin, Colette van Laar, David O. Sears. The Diversity Challenge: Social Identity and Intergroup Relations on the College Campus. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008.
The authors conducted longitudinal research on the effects of having an interracial roommate on racial prejudice during college. The study shows exposure to ethnically diverse college environments and prejudice are negatively correlated.
Sigelman, Lee, and Susan Welch. “The Contact Hypothesis Revisited: Black-White Interaction and Positive Racial Attitudes.” Social Forces 71.3 (1993): 781–795.
This article presents evidence that intergroup contact between blacks and whites is correlated with more positive racial attitudes, particularly among whites.
Tadlock, Barry L., Andrew R. Flores, Donald P. Haider-Markel, Daniel C. Lewis, Patrick R. Miller, and Jami K. Taylor. “Testing Contact Theory and Attitudes on Transgender Rights.” Public Opinion Quarterly (12 August 2017).
This study examines the effect of contact with transgender individuals on attitudes toward transgender people and their rights.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- Africa, Public Opinion in
- Africa, Women’s Political Representation in
- African Development, Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab Spring, The
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Argentine Government and Politics
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Arms Race Modeling
- Asia, Water Politics in
- Asian American Mobilization and Political Identities
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarian Regimes, Lawyers in
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Authoritarianism in the Public
- Authoritarianism in Turkey
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Big Data in Political Science Research
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Birthright Citizenship
- Brazilian Foreign Policy
- Brazilian Political Development
- Brexit, British Politics, and European Integration
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Caribbean, Elections and Democracy in the
- Celebrities in US Politics
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China, Political Economy of
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Economic Policy
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Climate Change and Politics
- Collective Memory
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Political Economy of Resource Extraction
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Computational Social Science
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Elections, Partisan Realignment, and Long-Term El...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy and Minority Language Recognition
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Consolidation
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Democratization in the Muslim World
- Development of Survey Research
- Diasporas and Politics
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- Dual Citizenship
- East Africa, Politics of
- East and Southeast Asia, Political Party Systems in
- East and Southeast Asia, Women and Politics in
- East Asia, Civil Society and Social Movements in
- Economic Voting
- Effects of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks on American Public O...
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Election Observation and the Detection of Fraud
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Assistance
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Electoral Institutions and Women’s Representation
- Electoral Reform and Voting in the United States
- Electoral Volatility in the New Democracies of Latin Ameri...
- Electronic Voting Systems
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Parliament, The
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Extension of Voting Rights to Emigrants
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Feminist Political Thought
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Framing Effects in Political Communication
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender and Political Violence
- Gender and Politics in South Asia
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Gender Gap in US Public Opinion
- Gender Stereotypes in Politics
- Genetic Underpinnings of Political Attitudes and Behaviors
- German Politics and Government
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Health-Care Politics in the United States
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of
- Hume's Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Ideological Reasoning in Politics
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and European Politics
- Immigration and International Relations
- Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Impact of C-SPAN on US Democracy
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Independent Voters, The Study of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Politics and Representation in Latin America
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Indonesia, Politics of
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Institutional Factors Affecting Women’s Political Engageme...
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- Interethnic Contact and Impact on Attitudes
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Intersectionality in Political Science
- Interstate Border Dispute Management in the Indo-Pacific
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Migration: Dynamics and Politics
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Electoral Reform in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Mexican Political Development
- Minority Governments
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Mixed-Member Electoral Systems
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- Motivated Reasoning
- Narrative Analysis
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Negative Campaigning
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Online Public Opinion Polling
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Party System Institutionalization in Democracies
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Personalization of Politics
- Plato’s Political Thought
- Policy Feedback
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Ambition
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of India
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Institutions and the Policymaking Process in Lat...
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Roles and Activities of Former Presidents and Pr...
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics, Gender Quotas in
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Ethnic Identity in China
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Politics of the American South
- Politics of the Philippines: From Rizal to Duterte
- Politics of the US-Mexico Border
- Populism in Latin America
- Positive and Negative Partisanship
- Postcolonial Political Theory
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Candidate Selection in Comparative Perspectiv...
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Affluent Democracies
- Public Opinion in Europe toward the European Union
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Public Opinion on Immigration
- Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaig...
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Recruitment and Selection for Elected Office
- Redistricting and Electoral Competition in American Politi...
- Referendums and Direct Democracy
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion and Politics in Latin America
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau’s Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Science and Social Movements
- Secession and Secessionist Movements
- Semi-Presidential Systems
- Social Networks, Mass Publics, and Democratic Politics
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- Sport and Politics
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- State-Society Relations in South Asia
- Stereotypes in Political Reasoning
- Supreme Court and Public Opinion
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- Thailand, Politics of
- The Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspecti...
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- The Politics of Parenthood: Attitudes, Behavior, Policy, a...
- The Politics of Waste and Social Inequalities in Indian Ci...
- Third-Party Politics in the United States
- Tocqueville’s Political Thought
- Transboundary Pollution
- Transitional Justice
- Transnational Private Regulation
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Politics, Neoliberalism in
- US Presidency, The
- US Presidential Campaigns and Their Impact
- Venezuela, The Path Toward Authoritarianism in
- Voter Support for Women Candidates
- Voter Turnout
- Voter Turnout Field Experiments
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- White Identity Politics
- Women and Conflict Studies
- Women’s Inclusion in Executive Cabinets
- Women’s Legal and Constitutional Rights
- Women’s Political Activism and Civic Engagement in Latin A...
- Women’s Representation in Governmental Office in Latin Ame...
- Women’s Representation in the Middle East and North Africa
- Workers’ Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics