A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 May;90(5):751-83. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.90.5.751.

Abstract

The present article presents a meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. With 713 independent samples from 515 studies, the meta-analysis finds that intergroup contact typically reduces intergroup prejudice. Multiple tests indicate that this finding appears not to result from either participant selection or publication biases, and the more rigorous studies yield larger mean effects. These contact effects typically generalize to the entire outgroup, and they emerge across a broad range of outgroup targets and contact settings. Similar patterns also emerge for samples with racial or ethnic targets and samples with other targets. This result suggests that contact theory, devised originally for racial and ethnic encounters, can be extended to other groups. A global indicator of Allport's optimal contact conditions demonstrates that contact under these conditions typically leads to even greater reduction in prejudice. Closer examination demonstrates that these conditions are best conceptualized as an interrelated bundle rather than as independent factors. Further, the meta-analytic findings indicate that these conditions are not essential for prejudice reduction. Hence, future work should focus on negative factors that prevent intergroup contact from diminishing prejudice as well as the development of a more comprehensive theory of intergroup contact.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnic Groups / psychology
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Prejudice*
  • Psychological Theory
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception*