Intergroup contact, social dominance and environmental concern: A test of the cognitive-liberalization hypothesis

Rose Meleady, Richard J. Crisp, Kristof Dhont, Tim Hopthrow, Rhiannon Turner

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26 Citations (Scopus)
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Intergroup contact is among the most effective ways to improve intergroup attitudes. Although it is now beyond any doubt that contact can reduce prejudice, in this article we provide evidence that its benefits can extend beyond intergroup relations-a process referred to as cognitive liberalization (Hodson, Crisp, Meleady, & Earle, 2018). We focus specifically on the impact of intergroup contact on environmentally relevant attitudes and behavior. Recent studies suggest that support for an inequality-based ideology (social dominance orientation [SDO]) can predict both intergroup attitudes and broader environmental conduct. Individuals higher in SDO are more willing to exploit the environment in unsustainable ways because doing so aids the production and maintenance of hierarchical social structures. In 4 studies conducted with British adults, we show that by promoting less hierarchical and more egalitarian viewpoints (reduced SDO), intergroup contact encourages more environmentally responsible attitudes and behavior. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal data support this model. Effects are more strongly explained by reductions in an antiegalitarian motive than a dominance motive. We discuss how these findings help define an expanded vision for intergroup contact theory that moves beyond traditional conflict-related outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146–1164
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date23 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Intergroup contact
  • Environmental concern
  • Social dominance orientation
  • Prejudice
  • Cognitive Liberalization

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