Imagined contact in high conflict settings: The role of ethnic group identification and the perspective of minority group members

Publication Year
2017

Type

Journal Article
Abstract

Recent contact literature has shown that imagining a positive intergroup encounter improves intergroup attitudes and behaviors, yet less is known about the effects of imagined contact in high conflict settings. We conducted three studies to understand the potential effects of imagined intergroup contact among ethnic Turks (majority status) and ethnic Kurds (minority status) in the Turkish‐Kurdish interethnic conflict setting. Study 1 (N = 47, Turkish) tested standard imagined contact effects (neutral vs. standard imagined contact condition) among majority Turks and showed that imagined contact was effective on outgroup attitudes, perceived threat, intergroup anxiety, and support for multiculturalism only among participants with higher ethnic identification. Study 2 (N = 107, Turkish) examined how ethnic identification of the contact partner would influence the effectiveness of the standard imagined contact scenario (neutral vs. standard vs. ethnic identification condition) and demonstrated that imagined contact effects were more negative when the contact partner identified with his/her ethnic group during imagined contact. Study 3 (N = 55, Kurdish) investigated imagined contact effects (neutral vs. standard imagined contact condition) among an ethnic minority group and showed that imagined contact did not improve minority group members' outgroup attitudes, but did decrease intergroup anxiety and perceived discrimination (marginally significantly) and increased perceived positive attitudes from the majority group. Practical implications of the use of imagined intergroup contact strategy in conflict‐ridden settings were discussed.

Journal
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume
48
Pages
3–14
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

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Study 1

Participants and procedure We initially recruited 61 undergraduate university students, but excluded 14 participants who identified themselves with an ethnic background other than Turkish which resulted in a total of 47 Turkish ethnic group participants (22 males and 25 females, Mage = 23.96, SD = 3.92). The mean subjective socio-economic status (SES) of participants [“How would you rate your socio-economic status in the society,” ranging from 1 (extremely low) to 7 (extremely high)] was upper-middle class (M = 4.19, SD = 0.88). Data were collected in a psychology lab through online questionnaires [...] Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the imagined contact condition, we used a standard positive contact scenario in which participants were asked to think about a random midday, sitting alone in a familiar cafe. Next, they were asked to imagine a Kurdish student approaching their table and asking to sit next to the participant. Finally, they were told to imagine that they had a conversation with the Kurdish student during 20–30 min and that the conversation was pleasant and interesting. [...] Next, participants were asked to write what they could have talked about with this person during the conversation. The control condition included a mental imagery task with a standard non-contact scene [...]

Measures Unless otherwise stated, all items ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and higher scores indicated higher levels of the relevant concept. All reliabilities were assessed by Cronbach’s alpha coefficients. To assess pre-intervention ethnic identification, four items were taken from a previously used ethnic identification scale [...] Among the dependent variables, we used a three-item outgroup attitude scale assessing feelings towards Kurdish people on bipolar adjectives [...] which have been used in previous research. Perceived group threat was measured by three items [...] Intergroup anxiety was measured by three items [...] A five-item support for multiculturalism scale [...] assessed how much participants supported multiculturalism in relation to the Kurdish ethnic group [...]

Study 2

Participants and procedure The initial sample was composed of 127 university students, but we excluded 20 participants who self-identified with an ethnic group other than Turkish, resulting in a total of 107 Turkish university students in the final sample (26 males, 81 females, Mage = 21.25, SD = 2.19). Participants’ mean SES was 4.36 (SD = 0.86) (on a 7-point scale, 7 being highest). Online questionnaires were completed in a psychology lab with the help of research assistants [...] Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: neutral, standard positive contact, and standard positive contact with partner’s ethnic identification. The neutral and the standard contact conditions were the same as Study 1. In the ethnic identification condition, we merged the following sentence to the scenario: [Verbal Stimulus 1...]. Similar to the standard condition, the instruction was followed by a positive statement [Verbal Stimulus 2...]

Measures Unless otherwise stated, all items ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and higher scores indicated higher levels of the relevant concept. [...] Outgroup attitudes were assessed by feelings towards Kurdish people on three bipolar adjectives. Perceived group threat was measured by two items used in Study 1 [...] Intergroup anxiety was measured by three items [...] A five-item support for multiculturalism scale [...] assessed how much participants supported multiculturalism towards the Kurdish ethnic group [...]

Study 3

Participants and procedure We recruited 60 participants for the study, but excluded 5 participants who self-identified with an ethnic background other than Kurdish, which resulted in 55 participants in the final sample (Mage = 25.82, SD = 8.24, 37 males, 17 females, 1 unknown). The mean SES of participants was lower-middle (M = 3.67, SD = 1.12). [...] Online questionnaires were completed in private where participants felt comfortable. Participants were randomly assigned to two conditions. The neutral condition was the same as the neutral condition in Study 1 and Study 2. Participants in the imagined contact condition were given the basic contact instruction, enhanced with the friendship potential: [Verbal Stimulus 3...] Next, participants were asked to think about what they could have talked to their contact partner and write few sentences about this experience.

Measures Unless otherwise stated, all items ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) and higher scores indicated higher levels of the relevant concept. [...] To assess perceived discrimination, we used two items [...] We used a three-item outgroup attitude scale assessing feelings towards Turkish people on three bipolar adjectives [...] Intergroup anxiety was measured by [...] asking participants to rate how concerned, happy, awkward, and defensive they would be when they engaged in contact with a person from a Turkish background [...] Finally, we measured perceived attitudes of the majority group by three items adapted from previously used scales [...]

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