Intergroup contact is widely recognized as one of the most validated methods of improving attitudes toward outgroups. Yet what is intergroup contact “good for” beyond this function? To answer this question we take a panoramic view of the literature, beginning with the recognition that contact is multifaceted in both form (e.g., face-to-face, indirect, simulated) and outcome (e.g., attitudes, cognition, behavior). Taking this highly inclusive view of what contact “is” and what contact “does” suggests that it plays a fundamental role in the shaping of human cognition. An increasingly diverse body of research demonstrates that contact exerts a generalizing reaction across target outgroups, making respondents less inward looking and more open to experiences, it shapes ideology regarding how the world ought to operate (i.e., ideologies about social hierarchy or regulation), and over time can promote new ways of problem-solving, enhance cognitive flexibility, and foster creativity. For these reasons we believe that contact is a key liberalizing agent that shapes human cognition and experience; as such, contact theory should now share the stage with other prominent theories (e.g., cognitive dissonance) that speak to a broader understanding of human nature.