Evidence from testing extended contact in conflictual contexts

The studies reported earlier show that extended contact, when tested in naturalistic contexts, is an effective strategy for reducing prejudice toward different target- groups. Importantly, these beneficial effects generalize to situations marked by high levels of conflict and segregation between groups, making extended contact an especially appealing strategy. Paolini et al. (2004, Study 2; see also Paolini, Hewstone, & Cairns, 2007, Study 3; Tausch et al., 2011) provided initial evidence that extended contact was effective in segregated and conflictual contexts, by examining Catholic and Protestant adults in Northern Ireland. Their results also revealed additive effects of direct and extended contact and demonstrated for the first time mediation by intergroup anxiety. Christ et al. (2010), using both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, found in a sample of Catholic and Protestant adults in Northern Ireland that extended contact effects were stronger in segregated contexts and when direct contact was low. In other words, individuals relied on information provided by extended contact when they lacked personal contact experiences.

Andrighetto, Mari, Volpato, and Behluli (2012) tested the potential of extended contact by focusing on competitive victimhood as the outcome variable, defined as a disagreement on whether the ingroup or the outgroup suffered more in a conflict and operationalized as the difference between perceived ingroup and outgroup vic- timhood. Participants were Kosovar Albanian high school students, and the target outgroup was Serbs. Results showed that extended contact via family members (i.e., knowing that family members have outgroup friends) was associated with reduced competitive victimhood, an effect mediated by reduced outgroup infrahumanization (see Chapter 5) and greater outgroup trust and perspective-taking. Notably, the results demonstrated the effectiveness of extended contact via family members on a variable extremely relevant to a context of extreme segregation. It should be noted that the authors also assessed direct contact and extended contact via ingroup friends. Due to persistent segregation, both direct and extended contact via friends were basically absent. In such segregated contexts, extended contact via family members was largely due to positive contact before the conflict. This may represent a criticism, since extended contact pre-existed the conflict, and it only occurred via one category (family members). But it also shows the strength of extended contact, which occurred via family members in extremely segregated contexts, and that was nonetheless associated with the variables tested in the study (for additional evidence of the effectiveness of extended contact via family storytelling, see Husnu, Mertan, & Cicek, 2018; Stasiuk & Bilewicz, 2013).

Du Toit and Quayle (2011) tested the effectiveness of extended contact in the South African society using a sample of White and other-race (mostly Black) individuals. Results revealed that both direct and extended contact with individuals belonging to multiracial families were associated with less ethnic prejudice. An important demonstration of the powerful effect of extended contact in a context of armed conflict was provided by De Tezanos-Pinto, Mazziotta, and Feuchte (2017), who collected data from a sample of Liberian refugees from 16 ethnic groups in the aftermath of the Liberian civil war. Results revealed that both direct and extended contact with individuals from other ethnic groups were associated with improved outgroup attitudes. Notably, these effects generalized to greater intergroup empathy, trust, and forgiveness, variables extremely relevant to the reconciliation process (Hewstone et al., 2004; Noor, Brown, Gonzalez, Manzi, & Lewis, 2008). These effects emerged as stronger for individuals who had more traumatic war experiences, demonstrating the critical role that contact may have not only on the reconciliation process but also on recovering from trauma.

Evidence considering individuals’ wider social network

Although extended contact assessments are generally based on self-reports where participants are asked to estimate the number of ingroup members with outgroup friends (Lolliot et al., 2015; S. Zhou et al., 2019), the study of extended contact can greatly benefit from the consideration of social networks, which allows a deeper understanding of the effects of direct and indirect intergroup relationships within a given network (see Wolfer, Faber, & Hewstone, 2015; Wolfer & Hewstone, 2017). Munniksma et al. (2013) conducted a pioneering longitudinal study using social network methodologies to examine a sample of Dutch high school students. Their results revealed that extended contact was associated with improved outgroup attitudes toward Turks only among those with more negative initial outgroup stereotypes.

These findings were corroborated by Wolfer, Schmid, Hewstone, and Van Zalk (2016), who found in two studies using large samples of adolescents that both direct and extended contact contributed to the development of positive outgroup attitudes and that initially positive outgroup attitudes buffered the decrease in direct and extended contact over time. Importantly, these studies provided insights into the distinct developmental processes in relation to intergroup contact. That is, direct and extended contact predicted the development of outgroup attitudes in adolescence but not in early adulthood. In addition, the authors showed that extended contact effects were mediated by an increase in direct contact, whereas the effects of direct contact were not mediated by an increase in extended contact. This finding not only supports theorizations and empirical evidence identifying extended contact as an antecedent of direct contact (Dovidio et al., 2011; R. N. Turner, Hewstone, Voci, et al., 2007; Vezzali et al., 2014; Wolfer et al., 2019) but further indicates that direct contact stemming from extended cross-group friendships partly accounts for why extended contact reduces prejudice (for an examination of both positive and negative extended contact with social network analyses, see Wolfer et al., 2017; for an examination of negative extended contact with ‘traditional’ extended contact measures among adolescents, see Vedder, Wenink, & van Geel, 2017).

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