Can Imagined Contact Help Reduce Out-Group Bias? What This Means For The Real-Life Workplace

November 30, 2020by Anupriya Kukreja

Summary of:

Williams, J., “Imagined Contact Intervention with an American Muslim Target” (2019). Masters Theses & Specialist Projects. Paper 3152.

Background & Theory

Studies have often shown that imagining contact with a member of a differing social group can reduce prejudice toward them. This is known as imagined contact intervention and is of help when real-life contact with the out-group is not an option. This study replicates the intervention done by Husnu and Crisp (2010) by assessing attitudes toward an American Muslim out-group from the lens of American participants. Theoretical concepts employed in the study include Social Identity Theory, Intergroup Contact Theory, Social Cognitive Theory, and Imagined Contact Intervention.

Research Question(s)

The author sought to answer the following question:

    1. Will the imagined contact intervention significantly reduce prejudice toward the American Muslim out-group when compared to a control condition?


196 college students participated who were picked through the convenience sampling method via StudyBoard – an online survey system portal. The researchers employed a between-subjects design with two conditions – imagined contact and control.

In the imagined contact condition, participants were given instructions to imagine a scenario where they meet a member of the out-group: Muslim Americans. In the control condition, participants received instructions to imagine a scenario in which they are simply outdoors, without interacting with the out-group.

Participants took a minute to imagine the scenario they had been given. They were then asked to describe as many aspects of their scenario as possible in one minute. Post describing, they completed some questionnaires, including nine-point likert scales measuring out-group attitudes.


Those in the imagined contact condition did not express significantly less prejudiced attitudes than those in the control group. These findings hence defied the expectation that engaging in imagined contact would result in less prejudiced attitudes toward the American Muslim out-group.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  • Diversity Management and Training: Workplaces facilitate real-life contact with subjective “out-groups”, as opposed to the imaginary contact mentioned in this study. Due to this real contact with diverse communities, employees must get accustomed to interaction and inclusivity norms of engagement at the workplace. Workplaces must help them develop the skills required for real contact, communication, engagement, and community building hence. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to know more.
  • Diversity Hiring: Just how by merely imagining contact, prejudice amongst participants did not go down significantly, similarly, just by believing in the values of diversity, a workplace environment does not become inclusive and multicultural. Organizations must have policies in place to make sure that they are reaching out to enough candidates from diverse communities, ensuring that they are truly inclusive and diverse while hiring. This will warrant that they are consistent with their values and offer opportunities for real-life contact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds for their employees.

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.

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