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Title: Pioneering the measurement of the micro-ecology of segregation in a non-racial setting : Northern Ireland
Author: Orr, Russell
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2012
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Gordon Allports 'Contact Theory' has served as one the central theoretical frameworks for prejudice and intergroup conflict reduction since the 1950's. In that time a large body of research has emerged, which suggests that 'Contact Theory' enjoys an unimpeachable position as an effective means for the reduction of prejudicial attitudes and behaviours. Incongruous with this empirical evidence is the simple fact that in countless states throughout the world, prejudice, discrimination, and outright intergroup violence remain ever pervasive. Recent evidence has emerged in South Africa which calls into question not the efficacy of 'Contact Theory' itself, but rather the methodologies employed to measure its success. By directly observing participants, rather than relying of self report pencil and paper questionnaires, at.a 'Micro Ecological' or individual and everyday level rather than at an institutional level, it is possible to directly examine true levels of intergroup contact between individuals. While innovative, this work has been dependant on intergroup differences being based on outward appearance, specifically skin colour. The main focus of this thesis was therefore to examine the feasibility of adapting existing 'Micro Ecological' techniques for use in a same race setting. It was decided the best way to do this was to examine seating patterns of undergraduate students drawn from each of Northern lrelands main constituent communities (Protestant and Catholic) as they attended lectures. Three studies were carried out between 2009 and 2011. Each study drew participants from the undergraduate population at a university in Northern Ireland. The first study established the success of the methodological adaptation in yielding behavioural data from a group of same race individuals. The results suggest that contrary to expectations students in Northern Ireland are able to make self segregating decisions as early as week one of their undergraduate study, in spite of a relative lack of exposure to their classmates. Having confirmed the utility of the new method as an effective means of data collection, the second study validated the 'adjacency index' as a reliable measure of segregation when examined using direct behaviour observation techniques. This not only underlines the significance of the data presented in this, but has far reaching implications for future micro ecological research internationally. The third and final study addressed a deficiency in the pre existing micro ecological literature by examining levels of contact between students based on more than membership of a single group. In this instance levels of contact were examined based on both the religious tradition and national identity of students. Again the results suggest that students in Northern Ireland are making self segregating decisions regarding who they sit next to in class based upon both religious tradition and national identity. Collectively, the findings in this thesis have dramatic implications for the future study of intergroup contact both in Northern Ireland and further afield. The new methodological approach outlined here provides the foundation upon which a fully integrated examination of intergroup contact can be carried out.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available