Research Examines Intergroup Contact and Social Change Motivation Across Countries - Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

August 26, 2021by Anupriya Kukreja

Summary of:

Hässler, T., Ullrich, J., Sebben, S., Shnabel, N., Bernardino, M., Valdenegro, D., … Pistella, J. (2020). Needs satisfaction in intergroup contact: A multi-national study of pathways toward social change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

Background & Theory

As the research on intergroup contact and social change motivation becomes more salient, this paper looks at the same phenomenon in the context of the Zurich Intergroup Project that targets 23 countries. This representativeness of a large sample gives more nuanced and culturally detailed results to the question and the inclusion of a needs-based model makes it theoretically novel. Utilizing a design of four different studies and drawing on the needs-based model of reconciliation, the authors theorized that when inequality between groups is perceived as illegitimate, disadvantaged group members experience a need for empowerment and advantaged group members a need for acceptance. They theorized that when intergroup contact satisfies each group’s needs, it should result in mutual support for social change.

Research Question(s)

The authors presented the following hypotheses:

    1. Intergroup contact will be negatively associated with support for change among the disadvantaged (Hypothesis 1a) and positively among the advantaged (Hypothesis 1b) groups.
    2. For disadvantaged group members, the extent to which intergroup contact satisfies the need for empowerment will be associated with higher support for social change (Hypothesis 2a).
    3. For advantaged group members, the extent to which intergroup contact satisfies the need for acceptance will be associated with higher support for social change (Hypothesis 2b).


In the first study, a sample of 689 members of ethnic minorities from the ZIP dataset were chosen because they reported having at least some intergroup contact with the respective majority group and for whose minority group there were at least 100 observations available. The final scales and items were assessed on a 7-point Likert scale.

The authors used five different operationalizations of the construct support for social change. They also used five different operationalizations of the intergroup contact construct.

The second study was administered to 3,382 LGBTQ participants. Study 3 utilized 2,937 participants from ethnic majorities: white people in Brazil, Non-Muslims in Germany, or nonimmigrant Chileans in Chile. Study 4 utilized 4,203 cis-heterosexual individuals.


Findings suggest that intergroup contact is compatible with efforts to promote social change when group-specific needs are met. Thus, to encourage support for social change among both disadvantaged and advantaged group members, it is essential that intergroup contact interventions also give voice to and empower members of disadvantaged groups.

The two studies of disadvantaged groups (ethnic minority members in Study 1 and sexual/gender minorities in Study 2) support the hypothesis that after accounting for the effects of intergroup contact and perceived illegitimacy, satisfying the need for empowerment during contact is positively related to support for social change. As for the two studies with advantaged groups (ethnic majority members in Study 3 and cis-heterosexual individuals in Study 4), accounting for illegitimacy and intergroup contact, the authors found that satisfying the need for acceptance (and also empowerment) is positively related to support for social change.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. Meet employee needs: Managers in each department can make extra efforts to ensure that they are paying attention to employees’ needs and that they have the space to communicate such needs. Weekly check-ins can include a more proactive approach of such communication that builds more comfort for such conversations.
  2. Have frequent support available for minority groups: Diversity and Inclusion initiatives can be strengthened through focus group discussions or the creation of identity-specific groups that can make these groups feel like they truly belong and their unique history and challenges are appreciated. Plenty of companies have started doing this for LGBTQ+ employees over the past few years. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to facilitate such inclusivity initiatives!

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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