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Imagined Intergroup Contact: Theory, Paradigm and Practice



In this article, we outline a new implementation of intergroup contact theory: imagined intergroup contact. The approach combines 50 years of research into the effects of contact with recent advances in social cognition. It represents both a versatile experimental paradigm for investigating the extended and indirect impacts of social contact, as well as a flexible and effective tool for practitioners and policy makers in their efforts to promote tolerance for multicultural diversity. We describe the theoretical basis for imagined contact effects, document emerging empirical support, and provide a practical guide for researchers wishing to adopt the paradigm. Finally, we discuss the potential application of imagined contact in educational contexts, and how it could be integrated with existing approaches to provide maximally effective strategies for improving intergroup relations.