Political Contacts: Analyzing the Role of Similarity in Theories of Prejudice

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Abstract

Over the last 50 years, many theories of prejudice reduction in social psychology have embraced the premise that intergroup contact allows people to recognize similarities between themselves, and that this perceived similarity overwhelms the social distance associated with intergroup antipathy. Given the mixed empirical evidence, however, we suggest that the positive effects of perceived similarity have been overemphasized. Although similarity may be sufficient for improved intergroup relations, the relationship between similarity and intergroup relations is far more complex than the literature usually suggests. Moreover, studying difference in intergroup contexts may yield new ways to resolve intergroup conflict and address group inequalities.

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