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Majority-minority social-group contact proves negative for the latter

February 06, 2020

An international study, in which the University of Granada (UGR) participated, has confirmed that intergroup contact between advantaged groups (ethnic majorities and cis-heterosexuals) and disadvantaged groups (ethnic minorities and sexual minorities) is not always positive as a strategy for reducing prejudice toward disadvantaged groups, contrary to the view traditionally defended in the Social Psychology field.

The research, published recently by the journal Nature Human Behavior, notes that, for minority groups, this contact seems to be negatively related to support for social change toward greater equality.

The team led by Tabea Hässler and Johannes Ullrich of the University of Zurich (Switzerland) coordinated an international study conducted jointly by academics from 69 countries, in which data was collected from advantaged groups (ethnic majorities and cis-heterosexuals) and disadvantaged groups (ethnic minorities and sexual minorities). By means of international coordination, data was obtained from a total of 12,997 people from different groups and countries.

The results show that, for people who belong to a majority (for example, heterosexuals), contact with a minority group (for example, LGTBI people) fosters support for social equality. The greater the degree of contact, the greater the support for disadvantaged groups.

By contrast, for minority groups, intergroup contact and support for social change toward greater equality appear to be negatively associated. That is, intergroup contact in this case makes people who belong to minorities less supportive of equality (even though, a priori, equality is something that benefits them as a group).

Mario Sainz Martínez of the UGR's Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre (CIMCYC) and Professor at the School of Psychology of the University of Monterrey (Nuevo León, Mexico) is one of the researchers on the project. He notes that, despite the differences between countries and between groups, "in general, our results show that, indeed, intergroup contact, in certain situations, can have negative consequences for disadvantaged groups, as it can encourage people in minorities to form attitudes against equality and against their rights as a collective."

Social implications of the study

Even where there are important variations in this effect, depending on how the intergroup contact and support for social change are operationalised, these results are relevant for research in Social Psychology, since they raise important questions regarding the type of strategies (for example, cooperation or confrontation) necessary to achieve greater support for pro-social-equality policies and actions.

The authors of this paper argue that, on occasion, intergroup contact between minority and majority groups may lead to attempts to rationalise the existence of economic inequalities, unequal access to resources and education, and so on. "For example, contact between people who are residents of a given country and immigrants does not necessarily lead to more favourable attitudes toward migrants or favour their integration in society. Sometimes, this contact actually serves to reinforce stereotypes or conflictive situations," concludes the UGR researcher.

University of Granada

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