Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination

By Stuart Oskamp | Go to book overview
flects differences in the length and intensity of contact as well as whether the contact is sanctioned by an authority. Yet intergroup contact through travel is often cited as a major remedy for prejudice and provincialism. Our results do not support such claims for the types of travel that have been most studied.
The smaller effect sizes of contact that were found for reducing prejudice against the elderly and the disabled underline the importance of creating situations that counter prevailing negative stereotypes. In contrast, several studies in our review involved brief contact with severely senile or handicapped groups. Not surprisingly, such contact reinforced fears and stereotypes and did not reduce prejudice.
But how can we create optimal contact situations? This is the point where social psychology and sociology meet. Social-structural changes in our institutions are necessary to provide opportunities for optimal intergroup contact on a scale sweeping enough to make a societal difference. Such changes are typically resisted by powerful majorities. As one example, American university campuses, with their revival of intergroup conflict and discrimination in recent years, illustrate what can happen when institutions do not make the necessary structural changes to adapt to a more diverse community ( Pettigrew, 1998a). By contrast, despite some distressing instances of racism, many intergroup situations in the United States Army show what can be achieved when an institution is willing to make the systematic structural alterations that are necessary for optimal intergroup contact to become a routine way of life within the institution ( Moscos & Butler, 1996).

NOTES
1.
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (SBR-9709519) with the first author and Stephen Wright as co-investigators. For their invaluable assistance we are indebted to Wright and to our dedicated research assistants over the past two years: Rebecca Boice, Kimberly Lincoln, Peter Moore, Danielle Murray, Neal Nakano, Rajindra Samra, and Amanda Stout. We are grateful for the persistent and competent help of the McHenry Library staff at U.C.S.C. in tracking down hundreds of relevant journal articles in a wide assortment of specialized journals. Particular thanks are also due to Professor Blair Johnson of Syracuse University for his helpful advice on using his DSTAT software. We also express our deep appreciation to the many researchers who answered our repeated queries. Professors Rupert Brown of the University of Kent, Samuel Gaertner of the University of Delaware, Miles Houston of the University of Wales, Jean Phinney of California State University at Los Angeles, and Daniel Powers of the University of Texas were especially helpful, by digging into their old records to find the detailed data needed to compute effect sizes.
2.
This basic point is often misunderstood. The erroneous notion that the hypothesis holds that intergroup contact "will of itself produce better relations between...groups" still appears in the literature ( McGarty & de la Haye, 1997, p. 155; see also Ray, 1983).
3.
The complete list of references used in the meta-analysis is available from the authors.

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