Contact and Prejudice Lab: Introduction and Methods
People’s diversity in perception elicits prejudice toward members of a different group or society. According to Stephan et al. (2002), cultural values, relative favoritism, and injustice contribute to varying attitudes between communities. Common targets of prejudice include race, religion, politics, and sexuality. Each of these targets has two opposing sides that hold different opinions. For instance, one of the significant political prejudices in the United States is between liberals and conservatives. While contact between members from different groups can reduce the existing prejudice, intolerance, and conflicts among members evoke varying feelings that impede meaningful relationships. Given this, the current research sought to determine the influence that positive and negative contact has on feelings among self-identified liberals and conservatives. The results obtained will enable society to predict the behavior of each group.
For many years, researchers have sought to test whether contact reduces intergroup affects of prejudice. A meta-analysis study conducted to test this theory indicated that intergroup contact reduces prejudice among members. When members from both groups were obligated to be in contact, the prejudice reduction was higher among the members in contact and towards the entire outgroup (Pettigrew &Tropp, 2006). Brandt et al. (2014) found out that conservatives and liberals are equally intolerant. Such a conclusion negated the perceived notion that liberals show an understanding of other groups. Both research highlight the need to pay attention to factors that interfere with intergroup contact in future research. Therefore, current research aims to meet this gap by assessing contact and prejudice on a neutral ground such as school.
Moreover, research shows that positive and negative intergroup contacts influence both the affective and cognitive aspects of prejudice. Aberson (2015) analyzed a sample of more than five hundred white and African American groups to assess positive and negative intergroup contact as predictors of cognitive and affective dimensions of prejudice. The study shows that either type of contact predicts prejudice, but negative feelings of threats become essential in clarifying the relation between contact and prejudice. Although the research analyzed positive and negative contact based on prejudice’s affective and cognitive component, it reported predetermined subjects.
Imagined contact prepares members in the two opposing sides for actual contact in the future. Warner and Villamil (2017) carried out research to determine whether imagined contact would improve cross-partisan feelings between subjects of the two political divides in the United States. The authors found out that imagined contact could reduce prejudice among group members (Warner &Villamil, 2017). The results support the main argument that the current research was based on—intergroup contact reduces prejudice.
The current study assesses the association of contact and prejudice among students. The current research hypothesizes that positive contacts cause lower affective prejudice between liberals and conservatives, while negative contacts cause high affective prejudice. For these hypotheses to hold, several conditions are necessary: both groups must have equal status and work towards the same goal. The groups should also be provided with opportunities to form meaningful relationships. Since people seem to harbor negative and positive feelings towards their counterparts, this study will explain whether varying political standings can predict the affects of prejudice.
The study was conducted in KSU with participants drawn from undergraduate psychology classes as part of exercise and others from the online pooling system. A total number of 84 samples were retained after eight (8) participants failed to complete (i. e. <75%). The study sample comprised more female students (n = 51, 60.7%) than male students (n = 32, 38.1%). Their age ranged between 18 and 46, with an average age of 20.64 years (SD 3.96). For these respondent, ethnicity comprised a majority of white (n = 50, 59.5%), followed by the black or Africa (n = 14, 16.7%), Hispanic or Latinx (n = 7, 8.3%), and Asian (n = 1, 1.2%). The research followed KSU research guidelines in that the school’s IRB approved the research proposal and questionnaires before commencing the actual research. Besides, ethical considerations were upheld by briefing participants on the research’s intention, signing the consent form, and making participation anonymous. The student’s participants were rewarded with class credit.
The study utilized a correlation research design to determine the relationship between participants’ contact and the affects of prejudice. The researcher used the Qualtrics online system to distribute questionnaires, of which items on each measure adapted different numeric rating scales.
Positive Contact Measure
Eight items asked respondents to describe their closest contact (liberal/conservative) acquaintances. The positive contact measure contained 7 points rating and contained close, equal, voluntary intimate, pleasant, and cooperative items. The lowest value (0 = completely unequal) indicated a lower favorable valence of contact, while the highest value (7= completely equal) depicted a more encouraging valence of contact. The numerical rating originated from the work of Islam and Hewestone (1993). Since items are similar to those in Aberson (2015), the rating scale was considered a good internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = .78).
Negative Contact Measure
Fourteen items asked the respondents to perceive their experience with (liberal/conservative) and rate them. Some of the negative measures include discriminated, verbally abused, and physically abused, and response and response possibilities are never (0) to very frequently (6). The rating scale originated from the work of Stephan et al. (2002). Even though eight items were added to those used by Aberson (2015), his research showed that the scale item resulted in a high covariance level (i.e., Cronbach’s α = .94). Therefore, the scale items were considered reliable.
Positive and Negative Feelings Measures
Six items in each affective measure were utilized to assess participants’ reactions toward colleagues with different political inclination. Positive feelings were evaluated using admiration, acceptance, and affection, while negative feelings through hostility, dislike, and superiority. The choices in both measures ranged from 0 to 9. For instance, admiration items ranged from no admiration to extreme admiration. The rating scales were adopted from Stephan et al. (2002). The used items came from Aberson (2015), in which the positive feelings measure had a Cronbach’s α = .71, and negative feelings measure, Cronbach’s α = .85. Such measures show scale reliability and consistency.
Participating students were briefed about the study’s purpose and content, filled a consent form, and then directed to a link with the D2L online questionnaire. They had to fill in their demographic information: age, gender, and ethnicity. The site had a feeling thermometer that helped students to self-identify their political inclination (very liberal, liberal, lean liberal, lean conservative, conservative nature, and very conservative). The quota-stratified sampling methodology in Qualtrics enabled the researcher to utilize random assignment of questions to the participants. Each participant indicated their respective feelings towards their colleagues with different political predispositions. Debriefing about the study was done toward the end of the study.
Using SPSS statistical software, the demographic data and political affiliation data were categorized as descriptive variables to provide participants’ characteristics. The bivariate methodology was used to assess the correlation between positive contact and affective prejudice and negative contact and affective prejudice. Therefore, Pearson’s correlation coefficient indicated the strength between the two measures, while the two-tailed test provided the significance level.
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