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Positive and Negative Asymmetry in Intergroup Contact: Its Impact on Linguistic Forms of Communication and Physiological Responses


While positive intergroup contact has been shown to reduce discrimination, negative contact has the potential to worsen intergroup relationships. Yet little is known about the interaction between positive and negative contact, whereas people are frequently exposed to both types of contact. This research project will provide an original and comprehensive investigation into the positive-negative asymmetry of intergroup contact (PNAIC) effect, to understand whether positive contact exerts stronger effects than negative contact, improving social integration. The net impact and the possible consequences of a mix of both positive and negative intergroup contact will be examined at interpersonal and contextual levels. A series of studies will systematically test three plausible outcomes: buffering (i.e. positive contact attenuates detrimental effects of negative contact), facilitation (i.e. negative contact augments the impact of positive contact), and poisoning (i.e. negative contact reduces the impact of positive contact) effects. Using one diary study, one longitudinal survey and two experimental studies, the research project will consider also key moderating processes that help explain the joint impact of positive and negative contact on intergroup discrimination. The phenomenon will be analyzed on linguistic and physiologic outcomes, as reliable and unobtrusive measures of discrimination. The unintentional use of language to perpetrate outgroup discrimination and the unintended different physiologic responses to ingroup and outgroup faces will provide insight into the challenge of contact not just in temporary discriminatory reactions but in future interactions. Across the studies, the positive-negative contact asymmetry effect will be investigated towards groups that are both discriminated against and perceived as threatening, such as immigrants in Europe today. This will be done among majority and minority group members, using both direct and vicarious contact.

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Wellington Square University Offices
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 454,80