Personalization and the Promise of Contact Theory



The article discusses theoretical issues regarding the generalization of positive intergroup contact. It contrasts the models of Brewer and Miller (1984), Hewstone and Brown (1986), and Gaertner and Dovidio (2000). It elaborates the conceptual meaning of key concepts: intergroup salience, typicality of an outgroup member, decategorization, differentiation, and personalization. In particular, the article argues for the conceptual independence of differentiation (individuation) among social category members and personalized interaction (self-disclosure and self/other comparison) with category members. A hypothetical experiment is presented to illustrate the independent operationalization of the two constructs. Stronger benefits are expected for the latter. Whereas the benefits of differentiation primarily rest on cognitive effects, personalization also has motivational consequences: justifying one’s self-disclosure and inducing increased trust.