Research Shows Value of Intergroup Contact to Reduce Discrimination

Summary of:

Tyler, S. (2020). Reducing discrimination. Human behavior and the social environment 1 (ch. 7: adapted from Chapter 12.3 from Principles of Social Psychology by the University of Minnesota under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas.

Background & Theory

This book chapter focuses on what factors influence prejudice and discrimination and what methods are recommended to decrease these, with a focus on intergroup contact. The author reviews several studies and examples of accepted research to review these areas.

Research Questions

Tyler addresses the following questions in her research:

  1. Why do prejudice and discrimination exist?
  2. Does intergroup contact play a specific role in relation to prejudice and discrimination?

Methods

The author evaluates what we know about discrimination and prejudice and what might cause these, all through the lens of intergroup contact and how groups are impacted by discrimination, as well as how they may change their views. The author reviews research and studies that discuss the impact of social norms, intergroup contact, common ingroup identity theory, the extended-contact hypothesis, and recategorization on reducing discrimination.

Results

The results show that many people are prone to prejudice of some sort, especially if often socializing within their ingroup. It is, in some ways, part of life as we all have biases. Intergroup contact can be negative at times, but usually is very positive and helpful in reducing discrimination. A major key component in being successful at reducing discrimination is in seeing others’ perspectives and being open-minded. Becoming more educated and having opportunities to interact with other groups (and this can be done in various ways, such as a friend-of-a-friend being someone of the outgroup, or working together on school projects), we can help break the barriers that exist within discrimination. 

What This Means

  • We should all make an effort to reduce the prejudice and biases we might have, and most certainly make an effort to not discriminate.
  • Keeping an open mind and being willing to collaborate with members of an outgroup can encourage both a conscious and subconscious effort to reduce prejudice and discrimination. 
  • Diversity is most certainly a strength, and the benefits are many.
  • It is critical to note that research supports the idea that in order to reduce discrimination, intergroup contact should be done in such a way so as to help eliminate the causes of the stereotypes/biases.
  • A final note the author made was the importance of stopping discrimination when we see it — we must all be good stewards of this. Research shows this may also help one change their thoughts about their feelings and beliefs.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Diversity can be a tool to reduce conflict. When groups are more willing to understand and appreciate one another, to see one another with empathy, it greatly reduces the possibility of discrimination and conflict. Thus, diversity training or group team-building exercises can be great conflict resolution tools.

For everyone: Keeping an open mind can make your life better. Truly, it may help you see others more positively, see yourself more positively, and reduce the conflict you might encounter.