Don’t hurt my outgroup friend: A multifaceted form of imagined contact promotes intentions to counteract bullying

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A growing body of research has shown that imagined intergroup contact can improve outgroup attitudes. The aim of the present study was to examine the effectiveness of a multifaceted form of imagined contact in counteracting bullying in school children, and additionally to test the underlying processes of this effect. Two hundred and fifteen Italian elementary school children took part in a 3-week intervention, where they were asked to imagine a scenario in which they become friends with an unknown disabled child, interact in various social settings, and react to forms of discrimination toward the newly acquired friend. After each session, they discussed collectively what they had imagined. The dependent measures were administered 1 week after the last session. Results revealed that inclusion of an outgroup member in the self mediated the effect of imagined contact on intentions to counteract social exclusion and bullying of disabled children, as well as helping intentions. Imagined contact also promoted greater willingness for outgroup contact via more positive outgroup attitudes and empathy. Our findings are important in delineating new forms of imagined contact, and understanding ways to promote behaviors that defend victims of social exclusion and bullying in school environments.

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
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Journal Article
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