Membership salience, ingroup prototypicality
Social categorization during contact (i.e., membership salience) is essential for the generalization of outgroup attitudes (Brown & Hewstone, 2005; cf. Chapter 1). We argue that membership salience is a key variable when integrating collective action and contact research. In fact, group differences, power, and social inequalities during contact, which have been shown to be necessary to grant contact a mobilizing role both for high- and low-status groups (Zuniga, Naagda, & Sevig, 2002), can only be discussed when group membership is salient during intergroup interactions. Note that group membership is especially likely to be salient during indirect contact (Wright et al., 1997), making interventions based on indirect contact especially likely to highlight intergroup differences. In order to test whether membership salience is also relevant when exploring the role of contact on collective action, we conducted the study (Di Bernardo, Vezzali, Stathi, et al., 2019) that was described in the previous section on socio-structural variables as mediators (and for brevity we will not repeat).
Another moderator related to social categorization and membership salience that can be relevant in moderating the contact effects is group prototype perceptions. According to the self-categorization theory, individuals follow ingroup norms, largely determined by the ingroup prototype (J. C. Turner et al., 1987). We argue that positive contact can foster collective action among high-status group members but that this effect is moderated by the ingroup prototype. Specifically, we expect that, when individuals have positive contact experiences that contrast with the ingroup prototype, they will resolve the inconsistency by relying on their personal experiences (Fazio, Powell, & Herr, 1983). When instead personal experiences of contact and group prototype align so that no inconsistency exists, individuals will follow group norms (Jetten, Spears, & Manstead, 1996). To test this hypothesis, we conducted a study with Italian (high-status) high school students (Vezzali, Stathi, et al., 2019). They were administered a questionnaire during classes including measures of cross-group friendships with immigrants (low-status group) and collective action. We also asked them to report, for each Italian classmate, the perceived degree of similarity to Italians and difference from immigrants (see J. C. Turner et al., 1987), allowing us to calculate the prototypicality of each classmate and the most prototypical classmate for each participant. In addition, for each classmate, participants indicated the extent to which they thought that s/he would engage in collective action in support of immigrants. Results revealed the expected interaction effect between cross-group friendships and ingroup prototype’s (the most prototypical classmate) willingness to engage in collective action, such that cross-group friendships were associated with greater intentions to engage in collective action only when the ingroup prototype’s (perceived) willingness to engage in collective action was low. Therefore, the inconsistency with the group norm, as indicated by the prototype, was presumably resolved by relying on personal experiences, that is, on cross-group friendships.
Recent research shows that, contrary to Allport’s (1954) initial concerns, contact ‘works’ and even has stronger effects among individuals with stronger initial prejudice (Hodson et al., 2017). Similar results have been found for SDO, such that contact effects are more pronounced for less egalitarian individuals (Hodson &
Dhont, 2015). Positive contact structured to highlight intergroup inequalities might be especially effective among both high- and low-status group members with high initial prejudice, since members from both groups can discuss intergroup inequalities within the positive framework provided by positive contact. This can make individuals with stronger initial prejudice more open to support social change.
We also believe that SDO is a particularly relevant moderator, because in addition to capturing higher prejudice (Pratto et al., 2006), it focuses on orientation toward inequality, which is at the core of collective action. We expect that contact will be particularly effective among high-status group members higher in SDO, who can redefine their orientation toward social hierarchy on the basis of the recognition of injustice provided by the (positive) contact experience. For low-status group members, it is more difficult to speculate about the role of SDO. Given their low status, individuals should in the first place endorse relatively low SDO. However, the scarcity of studies investigating moderation by SDO among low- status group members makes the formulation of hypotheses for low-status groups especially difficult (cf. C. Wang et ah, 2020).
We provided an initial test of hypotheses on the moderating role of SDO in a study that will be described later, in the section of naturalistic interventions (Vezzali, McKeown, et ah, 2020).
Having outlined the key variables included in the model we are proposing in an effort to reconciliate and integrate the intergroup contact and the collective action literature, we will turn our attention to a more applied aspect of our work. Specifically, we will present research that has taken place in naturalistic settings and that aimed at understanding how to enhance social change.