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Title: Reducing prejudice through cognitive intervention: mechanisms of imagined and recalled intergroup contact
Author: Birtel, Michele Denise
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2011
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Over 500 studies have shown that intergroup contact is an effective and robust way of reducing prejudice. Recent research has extended the power and scope of contact theory further, demonstrating that the simple act of imagining a positive intergroup encounter can promote more positive intergroup relations. In 14 experiments this thesis investigates the moderating potential and underlying mechanisms of imagined contact, and related cognitive processes associated with recalled contact experiences. The first part of the thesis establishes the compensatory power of imagined contact in mitigating the detrimental effects of high intergroup anxiety and low prior outgroup contact on intergroup attitudes, intentions and behavioural tendencies. Furthermore, individual differences in the ability to generate vivid mental images moderate the effectiveness of the approach. In the second part I draw upon established principles in psychotherapy. Imagining a negative contact experience with an outgroup member before a positive one resulted in larger reductions in intergroup anxiety, and stronger future contact intentions, than two positive contact experiences. In the third part I extend the imagined contact research to the domains of memory and cognition. Recall of a positive contact experience enhanced positive outgroup evaluations and contact self-efficacy via reduced o '-_:.anxiety. Consistent with the ease-of-retrieval effect, recalling aO-Iarger--uumber of . contact memories was more difficult for individuals low in prior outgroup contact, leading to lower contact self-efficacy, whereas this was not the case for participants ~~~-~ who had had high levels of prior outgroup contact. I conclude that cognitive interventions, especially those that make use of mental imagery and its special link to emotions, are highly valuable techniques for educators and policy makers in preparing individuals for direct contact, increasing the likelihood of achieving long- lasting harmony in intergroup relations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available