Perspective-taking mediates the imagined contact effect

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Journal Article

We investigated the potential for mental imagery to reduce intergroup bias in Cyprus, an island that has suffered from interethnic tension for over 40 years. Seventy-three Turkish Cypriots were asked to imagine a scenario in which they interacted with Greek Cypriots, compared to those imagining an outdoor scene. Subsequently, participants in the imagined contact condition reported more positive outgroup evaluations. Mediational analysis showed this relationship was explained by increased levels of perspective-taking. The findings highlight theoretical and practical possibilities for future imagined contact research.

International Journal of Intercultural Relations
Type of Article
Journal Article
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Participants and design Seventy-three Turkish Cypriots (28 female; 43 male) aged between 17 and 69 (M = 29.53, SD = 12.53) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: control vs. imagined contact. The target outgroup was Greek Cypriots.

Procedure At the start of the experiment the researcher told participants that they were participating in a study of imagery and attitudes about various social issues. Participants were given one of two task instructions. In the standard no-contact control scene, [...] participants were asked: [Stimulus A]. [...] It is for this reason that we aimed to create an imagined contact scenario that would be different from the everyday contact scenarios experienced by Turkish Cypriots and be more meaningful in content. [...] Participants assigned to the imagined contact condition therefore received the following instruction: [Stimulus B]. In order to further reinforce the effects of the imagery task, participants were then instructed to “Describe as many aspects of the scenario you just imagined as possible” for 1 min on a response sheet. Participants were then asked to complete dependent measures and feedback questions. [...]

Dependent measures Perspective-taking was assessed with three items [...]. The items asked participants, by keeping Greek Cypriots in their mind, the extent to which they could see things from her or his point of view; put yourself in other’s shoes; relate to her or him if something personal is disclosed [...]. In order to assess outgroup attitudes, participants were asked to assess their feelings toward Greek Cypriots with the following bi-polar scale items: cold-warm; positive-negative; friendly hostile; suspicious-trusting; respectful-contempt; admiration-disgust (anchored from 1 to 7). [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias