Improving implicit and explicit intergroup attitudes using imagined contact: An experimental intervention with elementary school children

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Journal Article

The aim of this study was to test the effectiveness of imagined intergroup contact (Crisp & Turner, 2009) on elementary school children’s explicit and implicit intergroup attitudes. Italian 5th-graders participated in a 3-week intervention involving imagining meeting an unknown immigrant peer in various situations. Approximately 1 week after the last session, they completed measures of self-disclosure and behavioral intentions toward immigrants. Furthermore, they were administered a measure of implicit prejudice. Results showed that those taking part in the intervention, compared to participants in a control condition, revealed more positive behavioral intentions and implicit attitudes toward immigrants. Moreover, self-disclosure mediated the effect of imagined contact on outgroup behavioral intentions. Theoretical and practical implications of findings are discussed.

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
Type of Article
Journal Article
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The following is an excerpt of the intervention methodology. For more information, please see the full text of the article on the publisher's website or through your institution's library.


Participants and procedure The sample consisted of 44 Italian 5th-graders (24 males, 20 females). Mean age was 10 years 5 months. Participants were randomly allocated to the experimental or to the control condition. Children in the experimental condition took part in three intervention sessions, each lasting about 30 minutes. The interventions took place in small groups (5–6 children) and were implemented once a week for 3 consecutive weeks in the presence of a research assistant. Participants were asked to imagine having a pleasant interaction with an unknown immigrant child who had just arrived from a foreign country. [...] In each session, the participants were given 15 minutes to write down a detailed description of the imagined encounter [...]. Participants also engaged in a brief discussion of about 10 minutes with the research assistant, centered on what they had just imagined. Approximately 1 week after the last session, participants were administered a questionnaire containing the dependent measures. Furthermore, they completed individually, in a separate session, a Child IAT. Children in the control condition were just asked to complete the questionnaire and the Child IAT and did not engage in any imagined contact intervention session.


Explicit attitudes (questionnaire). For all measures, a 5-step scale was used, ranging from 1 (definitely not) to 5 (definitely).

Self-disclosure Two items, adapted by Turner, Hewstone, and Voci (2007) were used [...].

Ingroup and outgroup behavioral intentions We adapted three items by Cameron and Rutland. Participants were asked to think about meeting either an unknown Italian (ingroup) or immigrant (outgroup) child and indicate whether they would be happy to meet him/her, would like to play with him/her, and would invite him/her to go and have an ice-cream together. [...]

Implicit attitudes (Child IAT). [...] The task required participants to categorize items belonging to different categories of stimuli as quickly as possible by using one of two response keys on the keyboard. Items were presented one at a time in the center of the computer screen. Four categories of stimuli were used: Ingroup and outgroup were exemplified by four pictures of Italian and four of immigrant children’s faces; for the attribute dimension, four positive (e.g., good) and four negative (e.g., bad) words were presented auditiorally (through speakers). [...] In the first critical block, Italian faces and positive words shared the same response key; immigrant faces and negative words shared a different response key (compatible block). In the second critical block, the associations were reversed: Italian faces and negative words shared a response key, immigrant faces and positive words shared an other response key (incompatible block). [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias