Nav: Home

Effects of contact between minority and majority groups more complex than once believed

January 27, 2020

AMHERST, Mass. - For more than 50 years, social scientists and practitioners have suggested that having members of different groups interact with each other can be an effective tool for reducing prejudice. But emerging research points to a more complex and nuanced understanding of the effects of contact between groups, say Linda Tropp at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tabea Hässler, leader of a multi-national research team based at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

As Tropp explains, studies from the last 10 to 15 years suggest that the positive effects of intergroup contact tend to be weaker among members of historically advantaged groups, such as white people and heterosexuals, compared to the effects typically observed among members of historically disadvantaged groups such as people of color and sexual minorities. There has also been growing concern that contact may effectively reduce prejudice between groups but do little to change existing social inequalities, she adds.

"With our research, we wanted to examine whether and how contact between groups might help to promote support for social change, in pursuit of greater social equality, while also testing whether the effects of contact might vary depending on status relations between the groups and how the relevant variables were measured," she explains. "So, we embarked on this multi-national study, which included researchers from more than twenty countries around the world, who gathered survey responses from 12,997 individuals across 69 countries."

The authors highlight that this comprehensive study "makes substantial advances in our understanding of the relation between intergroup contact and social change." Details appear in Nature Human Behaviour.

The researchers found robust evidence, Tropp says, that when members of historically advantaged groups engage in contact with disadvantaged groups, they are more likely to support social change to promote equality. In contrast, when members of historically disadvantaged groups have contact with advantaged groups, they are generally less likely to support social change to promote equality.

However, the researchers also point out an important exception: "Among both advantaged and disadvantaged groups, contact predicted greater willingness to work in solidarity to achieve greater social equality. Thus, this research may offer a new route to reach social cohesion and social change, such that social harmony would not come at the expense of social justice."

Tropp, Hässler and their colleagues say their results raise two important questions and directions for future research. First, they ask, "How can positive and intimate contact between groups occur without reducing disadvantaged group members' support for social change?" Second, "How can support for social change be increased among disadvantaged group members without requiring negative contact experiences?"

They suggest, "Possible answers to both questions may be that advantaged group members who engage in contact should openly acknowledge structural inequalities and express support for efforts by disadvantaged group members to reduce these inequalities," they conclude.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Related Research Articles:

More Research News and Research Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.