Recent advances in intergroup contact theory
Recent advances in intergroup contact theory and research are reviewed. A meta-analysis with 515 studies and more than 250,000 subjects demonstrates that intergroup contact typically reduces prejudice (mean r = −.21). Allport's original conditions for optimal contact – equal status, common goals, no intergroup competition, and authority sanction – facilitate the effect but are not necessary conditions. There are other positive outcomes of intergroup contact, such as greater trust and forgiveness for past transgressions. These contact effects occur not only for ethnic groups but also for such other groups as homosexuals, the disabled and the mentally ill. Intergroup friendship is especially important. Moreover, these effects typically generalize beyond the immediate outgroup members in the situation to the whole outgroup, other situations, and even to other outgroups not involved in the contact. They also appear to be universal – across nations, genders, and age groups. The major mediators of the effect are basically affective: reduced anxiety and empathy. And even indirect contact reduces prejudice – vicarious contact through the mass media and having a friend who has an outgroup friend. Of course, negative contact occurs – especially when it is non-voluntary and threatening. Criticisms of the theory and policy implications are also discussed.