How the interplay of imagined contact and first-person narratives improves attitudes toward stigmatized immigrants: A conditional process model

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Journal Article

This article assesses the mechanisms whereby first-person narratives featuring stigmatized immigrants improve outgroup attitudes and encourage intergroup contact among prejudiced individuals. We rely on a 2 (imagined contact vs. control) × 2 (similar vs. dissimilar message protagonist) experiment on a systematic sample of native British adults. Results show that encouraging imagined contact prior to reading a short testimonial featuring an immigrant protagonist who is similar to the recipients in terms of social identity enhances identification with the protagonist, thereby improving outgroup attitudes and encouraging intergroup contact, and especially strongly among those who are prejudiced toward immigrants (i.e., high on modern racism). Theoretical and practical implications of the findings for the work on imagined contact, narrative persuasion, and identification, as well as for public communication campaigns, are discussed.

European Journal of Social Psychology
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Journal Article
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Participants The experiment was conducted in February 2016. Participants were drawn from a diverse opt-in online panel of Survey Sampling International (SSI), and were offered incentives by SSI for their participation. [...] The final sample consisted of 417 individuals of British origin whose parents were also British. The sample had a mean age of 41.67 (range: 18–65, SD = 13.42), 50.4% men and 49.6% women, and with the modal education category being General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (A Level; 42%; 21%—secondary level studies, 25%—Bachelor’s degree, 11%—some graduate work). [...] Roughly 50% worked full time and 16.5% worked part-time.

Design and Procedure Participants first completed a pretest questionnaire, which assessed the moderator and socio-demographic variables. After the pretest, participants were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: 2 (imagined contact) x 2 (similarity). First, half of the participants received instructions to imagine intergroup contact, and the other half received instructions to imagine an unrelated scene (control group). [...] Then, participants were randomly assigned to two similarity conditions: Half of the participants read a first-person narrative of a Pakistani immigrant, in which he is presented as similar in terms of social identity, and half read a nearly identical message, in which he is not portrayed as similar [...]. After reading, participants completed a posttest questionnaire that assessed perceived similarity (manipulation check), identification (the mediator), and the core dependent variables (i.e., attitudes and behavioral intentions).

Imagined contact. [...] Participants in the imagined contact conditions read the following instructions: [Text Stimulus A]. Participants in the control group were given the following instructions: [Text Stimulus B].

Experimental stimuli. A first-person testimonial was constructed, in which a Pakistani immigrant shares his experiences since his arrival in the UK [...]. In the story, Ali (a popular first name for Pakistani man) describes various events and feelings related to his arrival in the country, current occupation, his social and family life, his feelings about living in the UK, his fluency in the language, and his sense of belonging. He also mentions rejection of immigrants: the fact that many people think that immigrants take jobs away from native Britons and that immigrants increase crime. He also defends immigrants and asks for greater tolerance. [...] In the high similarity condition, the protagonist emphasized feeling British (vs. Pakistani in the low similarity condition), that his friends are mainly British (Pakistani), that his favorite food is British (Pakistani), that he usually speaks to his children in English (Urdu), that he reads mainly British (Pakistani) newspapers, that he wishes to remain in the UK (go back to Pakistan), and that he identifies with British (Pakistani) culture and its flag. [...]


Prejudice toward immigrants. The moderator, prejudice, was assessed using a measure of modern racism. Participants indicated their agreement (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree) with seven items.

Identification with the protagonist. This mediator was assessed using 11 items from a validated scale [...].

Attitudes toward immigration. Attitudes were the first dependent variable, measured with a four-item scale [...].

Behavioral intentions. This second dependent variable was assessed using a three-item scale [...].