What Are the Principles of the Contact Hypothesis?

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    Friendship Potential

    • Contact theory puts rival groups and people into situations where they have the opportunity to get to know each other as friends. There must be the opportunity for individuals or groups to develop real relationships and not just fulfill social roles or stereotypes. This reduces stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination created by lack of knowledge. The theory goes that as knowledge increases, so does understanding. However, there must be more than just opportunity for friendship for the practice to be effective.

    Common Goals

    • The rival groups need to work together on tasks to overcome shared hurdles or achieve common goals. This actively creates positive habits as it is in the common interest to work together and help one another. In addition, working toward common goals provides situations where prejudices and distrust may be forgotten. The focus shifts to problem-solving and the task at hand, allowing parties to recognize shared traits and things they have in common.

    Equal Status and Support

    • Reducing hostility through contact hypothesis requires equal status for both groups. Rules and support provided by the authorities for each group must be seen as fair by both parties. This prevents groups becoming disengaged and resentful toward each other. If both parties do not perceive equality in status and support provided, then it is possible that hostilities will increase.

    Other Aspects

    • Contact hypothesis is most effective when group members do not act in the same way as their stereotypes. This challenges preconceptions, aiding changing attitudes between groups.The social context in which contact is made should also vary to increase greater depth of knowledge and understanding. Finally, it is important that the members within the groups are seen as typical of their group so that stereotypes are not maintained.


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