Reducing Bias and Prejudice Through Imagined Contact with Immigrants

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The Ohio State University

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Immigration is very important in the United States. Immigrants can face social exclusion, discrimination, and prejudice and other challenges that impact adjustment. Previous research has shown that interventions to reduce prejudice towards immigrants can be effective, but the most effective methods are still unknown. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of imagined contact in reducing bias towards immigrants in the US. Imagined contact is an extension of the contact hypothesis, where people imagine interacting with someone from an outgroup. This study evaluated the effectiveness of three types of imagined contact interventions. The research also examined whether the effects of imagined contact generalize beyond the imagined other to the entire immigrant group. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions (imagined contact only, imagined contact with empathy, and imagined contact with objectivity) and were asked to imagine interacting with an immigrant. Various attitudes toward immigrants were measured both before and after the imagined contact. The study found a significant increase in attitude favorability toward immigrants after the imagined contact, including immigrants from the same group as the imagined other and immigrants from the more general world region. The impact of imagined contact also extended to evaluations of immigrants in general, though not to the same degree as for the groups closer to the identity of the imagined other. However, no significant difference in the impact of imagined contact was observed across the three conditions. The results show that imagined contact can be an effective way for increasing favorability toward immigrants in the U.S., but no differences in impact were seen regardless of whether the interaction included empathy or objectivity. This study supports imagined contact as a potential avenue for promoting more favorable attitudes toward this target group and reducing prejudice towards immigrants.