Intergroup contact theory.

Posted: July 8, 2010 in seputar ilmu sosial

by Thomas F. Pettigrew (

INTRODUCTION Social scientists began to theorize about intergroup contact after World War II (Watson 1947, Williams 1947). Allport’s (1954) hypothesis proved the most influential by specifying the critical situational conditions for intergroup contact to reduce prejudice. His hypothesis has received extensive attention both for its rare theoretical status and policy importance (Pettigrew 1971). Oddly, for a discipline that focuses on face-to-face interaction, social psychology rarely decomposes situations into their basic components. Allport’s attempt is a prominent exception. And it has proven useful in applied settings, such as in the distinction between racial desegregation and integration in schools (Pettigrew 1975). Allport’s Intergroup Contact Hypothesis Allport (1954) held that positive effects of intergroup contact occur only in situations marked by four key conditions: equal group status within the situation; common goals; intergroup cooperation; and the support of authorities, law, or custom.


Allport stressed equal group status within the situation. Most research supports this contention, although “equal status” is difficult to define and has been used in different ways (Cagle 1973, Riordan 1978). It is important that both groups expect and perceive equal status in the situation (Cohen & Lotan 1995, Cohen 1982, Riordan & Ruggiero 1980, Robinson & Preston 1976). Some writers emphasize equal group status coming into the situation (Brewer & Kramer 1985). Thus, Jackman & Crane (1986) show negative effects from contact with outgroup members of lower status. Yet Patchen (1982), in research on racially mixed high schools, found this to be less important than equal status within the situation. The meta-analytic results of Mullen et al (1992) clarify these disparities. They noted that ingroup bias increased with relative status in laboratory groups but decreased in field research with real groups.


Prejudice reduction through contact requires an active, goal-oriented effort. Athletic teams furnish a prime example (Chu & Griffey 1985, Miracle 1981, Patchen 1982). In striving to win, interracial teams need each other to achieve their goal. Goal attainment, such as a winning season, furthers this process.


Attainment of common goals must be an interdependent effort without intergroup competition (Bettencourt et al 1992). Sherif (1966) demonstrated this principle vividly in his Robbers’ Cave field study. Intergroup cooperation in schools provides the strongest evidence (Brewer & Miller 1984, Desforges et al 1991, Johnson et al 1984, Schofield 1989, Slavin 1983, Slavin & Madden 1979). Drawing on this thinking, Aronson’s jigsaw classroom technique structures classrooms so that students strive cooperatively for common goals (Aronson & Patnoe 1997). This technique has led to positive results for a variety of children: Australians (Walker & Crogan 1997), Germans (Eppler & Huber 1990), Japanese (Araragi 1983), and Mexican Americans (Aronson & Gonzalez 1988).


The final condition concerns the contact’s auspices. With explicit social sanction, intergroup contact is more readily accepted and has more positive effects. Authority support establishes norms of acceptance. Field research underscores its importance in military (Landis et al 1984), business (Morrison & Herlihy 1992), and religious (Parker 1968) institutions.


Allport (1954) derived his hypothesis from early field research. An Alabama study revealed negative effects when all four conditions were violated (Sims & Patrick 1936). White college students from the North increased on average in antiblack prejudice with each year spent in the South. Other studies investigated optimal conditions. After desegregation of the Merchant Marine in 1948, interdependency developed on ships and in the maritime union. The more voyages the white seamen took with blacks under these conditions, the more positive their racial attitudes became (Brophy 1946). Similarly, white police in Philadelphia who had worked with black colleagues had fewer objections to black police joining their districts, teaming with a black partner, and taking orders from qualified black officers (Kephart 1957). Studies of public housing provided robust evidence. Deutsch & Collins (1951) compared racially desegregated housing projects in New York City with similar but segregated projects in Newark. Sharp differences emerged. Desegregated white housewives held their black neighbors in higher esteem and favored interracial housing more (75% to 25%). When asked to name black faults, they listed such personal issues as feelings of inferiority. Segregated white women voiced stereotypes such as “rowdy” and “dangerous.”


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