Date of Award

8-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Erin Tone

Second Advisor

Erin Tully

Third Advisor

Sierra Carter

Fourth Advisor

Cynthia Stappenbeck

Abstract

The contact hypothesis, or the idea that contact with social outgroup members reduces explicit prejudice, is well established. Evidence suggests that intergroup anxiety mediates this relationship, such that increased intergroup contact lessens anxiety about intergroup interactions, which in turn contributes to decreases in prejudice. Since the contact hypothesis was introduced, it has remained relatively unchanged, despite advances in social and cognitive research, as well as changes in societal norms.

This study aimed, in several key ways, to optimize the contact model. First, this study narrowed the conceptualization of contact, based on current research that highlights the need to capture both frequent and positive/meaningful interactions through the collection of outgroup friendship data. Second, the proposed model included two measures of implicit bias—implicit associations and attentional bias—in addition to an explicit prejudice measure, given recent evidence that reflects declines in more overt expression of bias. Third, social anxiety was included as a covariate in the model, as this construct has demonstrated strong associations with intergroup anxiety and is rarely accounted for in studies of intergroup contact. Finally, the study included participants from both racial majority- and minority-status groups. Contact effects on negative intergroup biases have long been assumed to generalize to members of racial minority groups, even though most intergroup research focuses on majority-White samples.

Multiple group path analysis was used to examine this updated contact model for both Black and White participant groups. Results yielded support for the first hypothesis, in that, for both White and Black participant groups, having more outgroup friendships was associated with having less intergroup anxiety. The second hypothesis, which predicted direct associations between number of outgroup friendships and explicit, implicit, and attentional outgroup bias, was not supported. Results provided partial support for the third hypothesis, that there would be significant indirect associations via intergroup anxiety between outgroup friendships and each of the three measures of outgroup bias. Although intergroup anxiety did not mediate associations between friendship and either implicit associations or attention bias, it did emerge as a significant mediator for the association between friendship and explicit bias for both groups.

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