30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
Allport’s contact hypothesis
Prejudice emerges at an early age. Young children show a preference for playing with other children of the same skin colour or with other kids who simply happen to be wearing similar clothes. In adulthood, in extreme cases, this instinct for prejudice can lead us to dehumanize those we consider to be outsiders. The antidote, according to the US psychologist Gordon Allport, is intergroup contact. The idea is that by coming into contact with ’others’ we discover that they’re human, too. Numerous studies, many of them conducted in known sectarian trouble spots such as Northern Ireland, have confirmed that people who have contact with outgroup members tend to have more positive attitudes towards members of that outgroup. For contact to be beneficial, an outsider must be seen as being representative of the group to which they belong. Contact also needs to be meaningful. When members of different social groups exchange intimacies they come to appreciate how much they have in common.
Contact between members of different social groups — be they religious, ethnic or tribal — helps reduce prejudice and fosters friendly intergroup relations.
A problem with much research into the contact hypothesis is that it is cross-sectional. These kinds of studies can’t prove that contact causes positive attitudes; it’s possible that people with more positive attitudes simply seek out more contact. On a more upbeat note, recent research suggests that ’extended contact’ — having a friend who has a friend who’s from an outgroup — helps reduce prejudice, as does simply imagining a positive encounter with an outgroup member.
WASON’S CONFIRMATION BIAS
FOLLOW THE LEADER
The humanity that we share overwhelms any superficial differences between races or other groups. Intergroup contact helps make this apparent.