The Benefits of Friendship
A main focus of intergroup relational studies relies on the ability to improve cross-group interaction and friendships. Especially prevalent in areas or communities with little to no access to an out-group, prejudice becomes a common theme and usually produces adverse effects on attitudes and opinions towards said out-group members. Christ et. al. hones in on potential contact (cross-group direct contact vs. extended indirect contact) between group members to discover a way to improve intergroup attitudes. Specifically, Christ et al. worked to understand how much of an impact extended contact, or indirect friendships with the out-group, may have on improving intergroup relations. Moreover, Christ and his colleagues study what role direct contact plays as a moderator to improving intergroup relations.
The two Hypotheses tested were:
1. The amount of extended, indirect contact for individuals who lack direct contact experience may be positively correlated to improve out-group attitudes.
2. Direct contact or cross-group friendships would promote a change in attitude strength more so than only extended, indirect contact interactions.
1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:
The first study presented by Christ et al. was focused on Western vs. Eastern German residential areas and their members’ reactions to direct vs. extended contact with out-group members, or foreigners. Christ et al. defined direct contact as personal, cross-group friendships with foreigners. Extended contact was defined as indirect friendships or the knowledge of other in-group members with personal friendships with out-group members. The contrast between Eastern and Western Germany is defined by the number of foreigners, or out-group members in each population: in 2005, 2.4% vs. 10.1% respectively. By cross referencing statements of contact experience (direct or indirect) and participants’ self-reported level of indirect prejudice towards the out-group foreigners, the level to which indirect or direct contact would improve intergroup attitudes towards each respective group was illustrated
First, Christ and his colleagues asked members from both East and West Germany the amount of direct, cross-group friendships vs. indirect friendships they have. Next, through self-report measures, the researchers assessed the level of prejudice felt between the two residential areas towards foreigners on a 1-4 certainty scale (1 = extremely uncertain, 4 = extremely certain). These individuals were responding to statements such as “Foreigners are a burden for our social security system” with said certainty self-report levels.
2. What They Found – Results:
Sure enough, through a multi-level analysis, both hypothesis were supported. It was found that extended contact with an out-group member or members was strongly correlated to the level of prejudice felt. More specifically, Eastern Germans with lower extended contact rated higher levels of prejudice with the our group than Eastern Germans who had higher amounts of extended contact. Western Germans, with more extended contact overall, reported a smaller slope of prejudice between higher and lower level extended-contact individuals. Furthermore, the higher levels of direct contact reported, the higher the levels of positive attitude certainty were found. Moreover, direct contact was not only proven to be associated with positive attitude valence, but also stronger attitudes. In contrast, extended contact was only found to be related to positive attitude valence, not any form or change in strength of said attitude.
The take away? – Increasing Extended group contact will decrease levels of attitude certainty when it comes to negative, prejudice associations with the out-group. However, to truly improve interpersonal relations between the groups, direct contact friendships will aid in decreasing prejudice thoughts and increase positive attitude strength.
3. Who Was Studied – Sample:
General population from Germany; Ages 16 + (Mean age of 47)
Total of 1,024 participants: 464 Men, 560 Women
East vs. West Germany: 395 Eastern Germans, 629 Western Germans
4. Study Name:
Christ et al., 2010, Study 1
Christ, O., Hewstone, M., Tausch, N., Wagner, U., Voci, A., Hughes, J., & Cairns, E. (2010). Direct contact as a moderator of extended contact effects: Cross-sectional and longitudinal impact on outgroup attitudes, behavioral intentions, and attitude certainty. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(12), 1662-1674.
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