Attributional processes underlying imagined contact effects

Publication Year


Journal Article

Recent research has demonstrated that mentally simulating positive intergroup encounters can promote tolerance and more positive intergroup attitudes. We explored the attributional processes underlying these effects. In our study participants who imagined intergroup contact subsequently reported greater intentions to engage in future contact, a relationship that was mediated by participants’ attribution, to themselves, of a more positive attitudinal orientation towards outgroup contact. Consistent with this attributional account, the perspective taken when imagining the encounter qualified this effect. Participants who imagined the encounter from a third-person perspective reported heightened intentions to engage in future contact relative to control participants, while this was not the case when the encounter was imagined from a first-person perspective. These findings suggest that attributional processes are key to observing the benefits that accrue from imagining intergroup contact. We speculate that these attributions may distinguish the approach from extended and actual forms of contact and help researchers to further capitalize on the benefits of mental imagery for improving intergroup relations.

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

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Participants Sixty undergraduates (16 male and 44 female; age M = 21.44, SD = 3.67) were randomly allocated to one of four conditions in a 2 (imagined scenario: control vs. contact) × 2 (visual perspective: first vs. third) between-subjects design. [...]

Procedure [...] Participants were asked: [Verbal Stimulus 1...] Participants in the imagined contact condition received the following: [Verbal Stimulus 2...] [...] To manipulate the visual perspective in both control and contact conditions participants were additionally instructed the following before they began (alternate condition in parentheses): [Verbal Stimulus 3...] In each condition, participants were asked to close their eyes and imagine the scene from the perspective assigned to them for one minute. [...] when participants had the image in their mind, they were told to hold it there and respond “yes” or “no” to the following question: [Verbal Stimulus 4...] [...] Participants completed the dependent measures before being thanked and debriefed.

Dependent measures To measure the extent to which participants attributed to themselves a positive attitude towards intergroup contact they were asked three questions. [...] participants were also asked 10 questions regarding possible future interactions with elderly people. [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias