How does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Meta-analytic tests of three mediators


  • An abbreviated version of this paper was delivered to the June 2006 conference of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues held in Long Beach, California, USA.


Recent years have witnessed a renewal of interest in intergroup contact theory. A meta-analysis of more than 500 studies established the theory's basic contention that intergroup contact typically reduces prejudices of many types. This paper addresses the issue of process: just how does contact diminish prejudice? We test meta-analytically the three most studied mediators: contact reduces prejudice by (1) enhancing knowledge about the outgroup, (2) reducing anxiety about intergroup contact, and (3) increasing empathy and perspective taking. Our tests reveal mediational effects for all three of these mediators. However, the mediational value of increased knowledge appears less strong than anxiety reduction and empathy. Limitations of the study and implications of the results are discussed. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.