CHAPTER 9: REDUCING PREJUDICE
Jane Elliott, 1960s – the blue eyes being better than students with brown
eyes experiment. The temporarily disadvantaged students learned empathy
for those who are the victims of prejudice and how much it hurts to be the
target of stereotyping.
THE CONTACT HYPOTHESIS:
Proposes that increasing exposure to members of various groups can
increase positive evaluations of the outgroup and decrease prejudice and
Was especially appealing at the time it was introduced, because of the
segregation of African Americans and Caucasians.
Allport’s Contacts Hypothesis:
At the most basic form, the contact hypothesis suggests that merely putting
two groups together is sufficient for the reduction of stereotypes and
prejudice. The idea is that people will naturally “work it out” and get to know
one another when placed in contact with members of the outgroup.
Research has shown that mere contact is ineffective.
It only seemed to work well in reducing intergroup prejudice.
The reason is that, upon viewing the member of the outgroup; stereotypes
and negative affect are elicited even prior to the interaction. The stereotype
filters the perception of the interaction in ways that confirm the stereotypes
about the outgroup, and “by the time the interaction part, the offishness
each has shown has confirmed the other’s suspicion. The casual contact has
left matters worse than before.”
50% felt more negative towards the outgroup.
Majority groups can also feel pressure or anger and perhaps as a result of
reactance, they then respond to the outgroup with even more negative
Allport recognized that a whole host of factors affect the intergroup-contact
context and influence whether participants emerge from the situation with
more positive or more negative attitudes toward the outgroup.
It is important to know about characteristics of the situation, such as the
status of the members (equal, superior, etc), the role (cooperative versus
competitive) of the contact, the social atmosphere (is prejudice prevalent or
is equality promoted?), the personality of the interaction (is the person high
or low in prejudice toward the outgroup, and do they have an intolerant, i.e.
authoritarian –personality? and the situations in which the contact takes
Allport specified that at least four fundamental criteria must be met in order
for positive intergroup contact to occur:
Equal status members
Supper of legititimate authority.
Amir offered two more variables:
There must be a favorably climate for intergroup contact
The contact must be of an intimate rather than a casual nature.
Pettigrew adds just one factor to Allport’s four:
The contact situation have “friendship potential”
Stephan lists 13 variables.
Tests of the Contact Hypothesis
An experiment by Cook, (1969), suggests that contact over a period of time
(2 hours a day for 20 days) can significantly change intergroup attitudes.
Results: 40% of women in the experimental group showed a significant
positive change in racial attitudes toward African Americans.
One of the reasons the contact hypothesis has failed in to disfavor among
prejudice researchers since Allport’s time is that it has grown into what
appears to be an atheoretical laundry list of factors that facilitate the
positive effects of in-group-outgroup contact.
Research tends to focus on when and why contact will result in positive
intergroup attitudes, but it does not speak to how this change in attitudes
occurs in the contact situation.
The contact hypothesis does not specify how positive feelings toward an
outgroup member in the contact situation can generalize to one’s feelings for
the whole outgroup, and recent research has shown that the member to
group generalization does not occur.
Pettigrew’s Reformulated Contact Theory
Pettigrew proposed a longitudinal model of how the optimal contact situation
should proceed and of the changes that need to take place before individuals
start to think of outgroup members as potential friends, and as members of
a bigger in-group.
First, researchers need too be aware that individuals bring their own
intergroup experiences and biases and their own personality characteristics
to the contact situation.
Next, the situation must have Allport’s four necessary conditions and
Pettigrew’s additional necessary condition—the potential to become friends
with the outgroup members --- in order for any prejudice and stereotype
reduction to take place.
Next, when in group and outgroup members encounter each other in an
initial contact situation, the group members will regard each other with initial
anxiety but then begin categorization, in which they being to see each other
in terms of their personalities and characteristics, rather than their group
Established, prolonged contact facilitates salient categorization, whereby
group members begin to think of the outgroup members as representative of
the outgroup in general and begin to change their negative view of the
The last stage entails recategorization. [The intergroup context is configured
to encourage a breakdown of “us” versus “them” distinct categories, and to
form a broader “we” category, by making members of both groups aware
that they have more in common on a number of other dimensions that far
outweigh their differences in race, gender or other broad category
membership.] Unfortunately most intergroup contact situations never
reach this stage. [Page 245]
SHERIF’S ROBBER’S CAVE STUDY: THE SUPERORDINATE GOAL
Sherif had two groups of boys compete for a scarce resource.
The problem he proposes represented a super ordinate goal, in that no
group cold remedy the situation alone.
Sheriff’s study nice showed, in a very real setting, that prejudice and
outgroup hostility can be caused by competition, but can be greatly reduced
(or eliminated) via intergroup cooperation on a super ordinate goal.
Common In-group Identity
There is great evidence to support the idea that prejudice can be greatly
reduced through the encouragement of a super ordinate in-group identities.
Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman and Rust proposed that intergroup
prejudice can be reduced by breaking down the salience of the groups’