Enhanced external and culturally sensitive attributions after extended intercultural contact


Correspondence should be addressed to Johanna Ray Vollhardt, Department of Psychology, Clark University, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610, USA (e-mail: jvollhardt@clarku.edu).


This study examined the effect of close and extended intercultural contact on attributions for behaviour of out-group members. Specifically, it was hypothesized that extended intercultural contact would enhance the ability to make external and culturally sensitive attributions for ambiguous behaviour of out-group members, while decreasing the common tendency to overestimate internal factors. A content analysis of open-ended attributions supported these hypotheses, revealing that majority group members in Germany who had hosted an exchange student from another continent used significantly less internal and more external as well as culturally sensitive attributions to explain the behaviour described in critical intercultural incidents, compared to future hosts. The effect remained significant when controlling for perspective taking and prior intercultural experience. Moreover, the hypothesis was supported for scenarios describing different cultural groups (regardless of the exchange students' country of origin), suggesting a generalized effect. Problems of selection bias are discussed, and the importance of studying a range of positive outcomes of intercultural contact is emphasized.