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When Groups Meet

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By Gellineau
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Thirteen years of research | When groups meet | |

Man of the hour – Gordon Allport
I remember quite clearly reading about Gordon Allport’s work on the discrimination in my Social Psychology text in undergrad, it set of a chain reaction of thoughts – could it really be that simple. “Contact” true and meaningful goal oriented between different groups of people could potentially spark cognitive, behavioral and affective change. The suggestion that with the right mix of conditions could over time, because it wasn’t a quick fix after all break down long erected barriers of between the group I know and the group I think I know because stereotypes became generalizations. Could the impact of history, different economic stations, and diverging religious views be ameliorated by contact with the perceived other? These and other questions have been raised since that 1954 volume The Nature of Prejudice was first published. Questions generated research, either seeking to confirm, refute or modify the notion that conditionally the effects of intergroup contact could be generalized.
Thirteen years (of research)
In my early twenties I was an avid fan of MTV Real World its opening monologue I still know by heart “ This is the true story, of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. In essence I was watching Allport’s postulations being tested weekly, I was riveted. I was not the only one, the research team of Pettigrew and Tropp in their extensive, multi-year research that involved sifting through a myriad of research on contact theory, the authors narrowed their focus to 515 studies that test the effects of intergroup contact. They then conducted a meta-analysis that was to enable the drawing of firmer conclusions regarding the nature and direction of intergroup contact’s effects.
To date, no such comprehensive study has been conducted since Pettigrew and Tropp included all available research literature in total involving more than 250,000 participants in 38 countries. They provide an extensive debate on analytic procedures, inclusion criteria, methodology and research quality, which convincingly averts possible criticisms regarding publication bias, participant selection, or sampling bias. In addition, discussions of research extensions and emerging directions for future study are also complemented by considerations of implications of intergroup contact theory for social policy. The book’s rigorous methodology convincingly demonstrates that intergroup contact decreases intergroup bias and conflict, rebutting public discussions that regard intergroup contact as a cause of intergroup strife. The basic premise of contact theory is thus well supported by an ever-growing research base.
Conditions must be just right
Intergroup contact not to be confused with proximity does typically decrease intergroup tension, prejudice and hostility, as some of the critics have pointed out. Pettigrew and Tropp nevertheless argue that just as it would be incorrect to conclude that more contact between peoples will necessarily result in more prejudice and intergroup conflict; it would be just as fallacious to say that contact by itself as some sort of a magical cure for prejudice. Instead they supported Allport’s original works citing the need for specific conditions to promote positive intergroup contact, they are -
1. Groups must have a common objective.
2. Members of groups must meet on a level playing field in terms of status.
3. Institutional support must be present
4. Immersion into the contact must be ongoing
Points of interest
Arguments refuted
Exceptions don’t become the rule argument was put forward, it was suggested that intergroup contact was only successful when members of the outgroup were exceptions to the negative stereotype and that the effects of the contact therefore weren’t generalized to the wider group. Contact will only have a limited effect, unidirectional influence only impacting the treatment of and attitudes towards members of the outgroup. Contact doesn’t work when the separation and distrust has been ongoing for years. Contact theory should be discarded especially when there is overwhelming evidence to support Conflict theory, more contact great distrust and prejudice. These are just a few of the arguments that have presented and refuted, either because the methodology was flawed, researcher bias and divergent results when the studies to support these arguments were replicated.
Notions that could change everything
Cognitive shifts - rebound effects - attempts to suppress negative view and stereotypes results in greater displays of dislike for the out group and members of other minority groups as well. Suggesting that when designing “contact encounters” that space be created to explore how individuals really feel, the ideas they may be ashamed or proud of. Additionally it has been suggested that counter-ceiling is key to large scale revolutionary change meaning the more tolerant you are the great the positive shift towards increase acceptance after contact. Saline of group membership, questions around whether it should it be decatorized or satirized, in other words in the contact situation should person be encouraged to talk about individual characteristics or group salience. The findings suggest they both be promoted and when promoting it sequence becomes important. The impact of factors affecting individual choice to engage in contact namely that for us the idea of contact is anxiety-provoking and stressful and may motivate attempts to avoid interactions with members of the outgroup. Any discussion about the merits of the contact theory should be explored without placing all the emphasis on either affective, behavioral or cognitive explanations, instead seeking to explore the interplay between these interconnected aspects of human functioning.
My new favorite concepts * Re-fencing puts a name to our exclusionary behavior, explaining how persons exclude the outgroup members they like and categorically separate them from negative views the refrain becomes “My black friend, she isn’t really black, she isn’t like those other black people.” * Deprovincialization our intergroup attitudes may shift not only as a function of direct contact but because it encourages us to reappraise our own group. To the extent that this process occurs, it should lead us to become less provincial in how we relate to other groups. * Reicher Effect argues that negative attitudes, even hatred toward the majority are necessary for a minority group to initiate the protest efforts necessary for social change. The extent that minority group members engage in contact with the majority it may soften or improve their views of the majority.
The Reicher Effect has freed me in a way, the notion of hating the group of people who historical dehumanized has been discouraged instead the idea of love and forgiveness encouraged. Yet this theory suggests that hatred has its place, that it is a significant catalyst to motivate and mobilize us to end structural inequality. Or maybe it’s reinforcing the old adage of loving the person not the act.
Impact/Benefits of contact hypothesis
1. Reduced anxiety in terms of interacting with members of the outgroup
2. Reduced in group bias
3. Recognition of the narrow limits of cognition due to lack of exposure.
4. Primary transfer effects
5. Secondary transfer effects -generalization of the effects of contact
6. Reduced re-fencing

After all has been said and done the research duo are the first to admit that there are aspects of the Intergroup Theory that still needs to be explore as the findings are sparse. Namely impact of negative intergroup contact – importance of threat both individual and collective, the notion that intergroup and contact theory not be presenting as competing.…...

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