Changing attitudes through intergroup contact: the effects of group membership salience

Publication Year


Journal Article

Two studies were conducted to test the hypothesis that heightened membership salience, achieved by increasing the prototypicality of particular outgroup members during cooperative intergroup contact, facilitates the generalization of positive attitudes toward the outgroup as a whole. The first study (N=64) utilized an experimental paradigm in which the perceived typicality of a target outgroup member and the perceived homogeneity of the outgroup as a whole were manipulated. Consistent with our hypothesis, results indicated that positive attitudinal generalization was facilitated by encounters with typical outgroup members. The effects of membership prototypicality were further examined in a second study (N=293) where a survey was administered in six European Community countries. Results supported the hypothesis that membership salience moderates the impact of contact on a generalized measure of favourable orientation towards another country. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

European Journal of Social Psychology
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

Method Design 

A 2 x 2 between subjects design was used. The factors were the perceived Typicality of an individual outgroup member and the perceived Homogeneity of the outgroup as a whole.



Sixty-four British students participated in the experiment [...] and were randomly allocated to conditions.



For each experimental session, individual British participants arrived at the laboratory where they were seated opposite a German (confederate) partner (man or woman), who was protected from view by a screen. Participants were told at the outset that we were interested in relations between members of various European Community (EC) countries and the general social attitudes and personalities of members.

The screen separating the partners was then explained as necessary to reduce possible distractions and rule out the influence of physical appearance.

Under the pretext of learning something about their partner before working on the tasks, participants were asked to fill out a brief, eight-item `personal profile questionnaire'.

[...] the experimenter exchanged the partners' responses so that each would have a chance to see what the other had said about him/herself.

[...]participants were asked to indicate the extent to which their partner could be considered `typical' or `atypical' of Germans generally [...].

[...] participants were then provided with a booklet containing results of a bogus survey allegedly conducted throughout the European Community.

[...] participants judged the extent to which people within each of the five EC countries were completely alike one another or completely different from one another [...].

[...] participants worked with the German confederate on two tasks. The first task was presented as one that members of different countries frequently run up against and which is informative of the way people communicate with each other.

The second task was presented as a creativity task. Working independently, the participant and confederate were given three minutes to generate a list of unusual uses for an object.

Type of Prejudice/Bias