Imagined contact encourages prosocial behaviour towards outgroup members

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Imagined contact is a relatively new technique designed to focus the accumulated knowledge of over 500 studies of intergroup contact into a simple and versatile prejudice-reduction intervention. While it is now clear that imagined contact can improve intergroup attitudes, its ability to change actual intergroup behavior is less well established. Some emerging findings provide cause for optimism with non-verbal, and unobtrusive measures of behavior. This paper extends this work by adopting methods from behavioral economics to examine more deliberative behavior. Participants believed they were playing a prisoners dilemma with an outgroup member. They could choose whether to cooperate or compete with the other player. In three studies, we provide reliable evidence that imagined contact (vs. control) successfully encouraged more prosocial, cooperative choices. In the third study we show that this effect is mediated by increased trust towards the outgroup member. The findings demonstrate that imagined contact interventions can have a tangible impact on volitional intergroup behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-464
Number of pages18
JournalGroup Processes & Intergroup Relations
Issue number4
Early online date22 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • behavioral economics
  • Intergroup contact
  • imagined contact
  • outgroup trust
  • prosocial behavior

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