Intergroup contact has long been touted as a premier means to reduce prejudice and forge positive bonds with outgroups. Given its origins in psychological research, it is perhaps of little surprise that contact is expected to induce change within people over time. Yet using random-intercepts crossed-lagged modelling that parses within-person from between-person effects, Sengupta and colleagues (in press) recently found no evidence of within-person change, only unexplained between-person effects, regarding contact’s effects on outgroup solidarity in New Zealand. We conceptually replicated their study, focusing on modern racism and an affect thermometer as the outcomes, in a 3-wave study of White Brits (NT1 = 946, NT2 = 667, NT3 = 591) and their attitudes toward foreigners. We replicated the general pattern by Sengupta and colleagues, confirming between-person effects without within-person effects, suggestive of third-variable explanations. As a novel finding, we discover that differences in social dominance orientation (SDO) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) can account for the observed between-person effects. Problematically for contact theory, contact effects, at least those relying on self-reported accounts, increasingly appear to reflect differences between people (person-factors) rather than being context-driven (situation-factors) – such that those lower (vs. higher) in SDO and RWA are more favorable toward outgroups, rather than intergroup contact bringing about positive outcomes itself. Implications for theory development and intervention are discussed.
- Within-person change