Intergroup Contact & Empathy: Understanding Meaningful Contact & Individual Differences in Trait Empathy
Wong, Kendal M
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The intergroup empathy gap refers to individual’s tendency to respond with less empathy to out-group members relative to in-group members. One way to combat the intergroup empathy gap is through intergroup contact. Allport’s intergroup theory (1954) posits that one’s experiences and interactions with dissimilar others can serve as a means to improve intergroup relations and attitudes. Within the intergroup contact literature, there are a variety of intergroup contact measures employed across studies. Limited work investigates the relative importance of various forms of contact and the influence of empathy as an antecedent of intergroup contact. The present thesis presents two studies aiming to gain deeper understanding of intergroup contact theory. Study 1 explores the importance of variation in the nature of these experiences with out-group members. Results indicated that more meaningful and socially close contact experiences yield greater contact effects and increased empathy towards out-groups. Study 2 tests the role of empathy as an antecedent of intergroup contact and as an outcome of intergroup contact. Findings from Study 2 suggest that empathy serves as an important antecedent of intergroup contact experiences, such that contact effects on intergroup empathy were dependent on individual differences in trait empathy. Findings across both studies were consistent with the intergroup contact literature and provide new insight into nuanced variation of intergroup contact and empathy.
Subjectempathy, intergroup contact, contact theory