Reimer, N. K., & Sengupta, N. K. (2021). Meta-analysis of the ‘ironic’ effects of intergroup contact. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/vrsqe
Background & Theory
Intergroup contact theory is one of the most salient and popular theories in the field of conflict resolution. As societies are becoming more diverse, there are more opportunities for members of different groups to come into contact with each other. Psychologists disagree about what this means for disadvantaged-group members’ awareness of and opposition to social injustice. We previously wrote about a research paper on social change motivation, and as disclosed in the present study, some evidence suggests that intergroup contact has the ‘ironic’ effect of reducing support for social change in disadvantaged groups.
The researchers focused on answering the following question:
Does contact with advantaged-group members reduce disadvantaged-group members’ perceived injustice, collective action, and support for reparative policies?
The authors went through 98 studies with 140 samples of 213,085 disadvantaged- group members. They prepared a protocol in accordance with the PRISMA-P statement (Moher et al., 2015) and preregistered it on the Open Science Framework. They included studies with participants whose in-group is disadvantaged (in terms of status, power, or resources) relative to the out-group they have (or report to have) contact with.
The authors found that intergroup contact was associated with less perceived injustice, collective action, and support for reparative policies. 25–36% of studies found positive associations with intergroup contact. They also found evidence for an alternative explanation for the apparent ‘ironic’ effects of intergroup contact as, after controlling for the positive association of negative contact with support for social change, positive contact was no longer associated with any of the outcomes.
How This Translates for the Workplace
- Encourage Contact: The study found a positive correlation between intergroup contact and reduced desire for a perceived injustice or collective action. At the workplace, a lot of inter-group contact takes place already by default between members of different communities, nationalities, and languages. However, the management can push for more intergroup contact between employees of different departments and organizational hierarchies. This can encourage more inclusion and dialogue between different stratas of the organization and help employees from more disadvantaged identities or departments ask for help with more ease.
- Promote Data Collection: More than actually facilitating intergroup contact, this study focused on understanding the existing literature on the same, and how it could draw links between that literature. At the workplace, companies often lack any data about employee engagement, diversity and inclusion levels, gender ratios and don’t even know where to begin with this. “You can’t control what you can’t measure” is a useful saying here, and can be used by organizations routinely to check for, measure, and improve levels of intergroup contact, fair hiring, and diversity and inclusion. This will give them the much-needed nudge to introduce institutional change at the right pressure points. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to make your workplace more inclusive!