Relative Importance of Contact Conditions in Explaining Prejudice Reduction in a Classroom Context: Separate and Equal?


  • The research was supported by a fellowship from the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program to the first author and in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (GM MBRS SCORE S06GM48680) to the second author.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ludwin Molina, Department of Psychology, 1282 Franz Hall, Box 951563, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563 [e-mail:].


Research on contact theory has typically presented four major situational conditions of intergroup contact as separate and equally important in creating an environment that leads to lower levels of racial/ethnic prejudice. We empirically test this “separate and equal” assumption with a variety of student samples and outcome variables. Using data from three cohorts of high school students, as well as one middle school sample, we demonstrate that acquaintance potential and interdependence are the most consistent and robust predictors of prejudice reduction, outgroup orientation, and perceptions of a common ingroup identity. Findings concerning differences in the relative importance of these situational conditions for different racial/ethnic groups are also reported. Implications for implementing optimal contact conditions for prejudice reduction among various ethnic groups are drawn.