Bad is Stronger than Good in Intergroup Contact Only if I Chose It! Preliminary Meta-Analytical Evidence of Valence Asymmetries’ Moderation by Self-Selection

Paolini, S. (The University of Newcastle), Gibbs, M. (The University of Newcastle), McIntyre, K. (The University of Newcastle), Fell, B. (Oxford University, UK), Hewstone, M. (The University of Newcastle & Oxford University, United Kingdom)

Self-selection processes have been treated as methodological artefacts ‘polluting’ causality inferences about the contact-prejudice relationship. In this research, we elevated their status and made them a prime focus of investigation. We report preliminary results for meta-analytic tests of valence asymmetry in published contact research (samples 70; N = 27,456), and evidence that self-selection processes moderate the valenced contact-prejudice link across studies. Negative valence asymmetries were found in studies that allowed individuals to self-select (i.e., opt-in or opt-out of intergroup contact); no differential impact of positive and negative contact on group judgments was found in studies that allowed for limited self-selection. This pattern confirms that self-selection processes shape valenced contact’s downstream consequences on group-level outcomes, enabling negative valence asymmetries to emerge. The risk to social cohesion posed by negative contact thus seems to be highest in unstructured, unmonitored settings where individuals are able to exert their agency and decide whether to engage or not in contact with outgroup members.

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Overcoming Barriers to Intergroup Contact Symposium