A large-scale test of the link between intergroup contact and support for social change


Guided by the early findings of social scientists, practitioners have long advocated for greater contact between groups to reduce prejudice and increase social cohesion. Recent work, however, suggests that intergroup contact can undermine support for social change towards greater equality, especially among disadvantaged group members. Using a large and heterogeneous dataset (12,997 individuals from 69 countries), we demonstrate that intergroup contact and support for social change towards greater equality are positively associated among members of advantaged groups (ethnic majorities and cis-heterosexuals) but negatively associated among disadvantaged groups (ethnic minorities and sexual and gender minorities). Specification-curve analysis revealed important variation in the size—and at times, direction—of correlations, depending on how contact and support for social change were measured. This allowed us to identify one type of support for change—willingness to work in solidarity— that is positively associated with intergroup contact among both advantaged and disadvantaged group members.

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Fig. 1: Results of the specification-curve analysis among advantaged groups.
Fig. 2: Results of the specification-curve analysis among disadvantaged groups.

Data availability

Data underlying the analyses reported in the paper have been deposited on the Open Science Framework under the following link: https://osf.io/wgdhb/.

Code availability

R code and scripts to reproduce the analyses presented in the manuscript can be found on the Open Science Framework at: https://osf.io/8rcz9/.


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This project received direct financial support through the Swiss Bilateral Programme of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation awarded to J.U., R.G., T.H., M.Bernadino and D.V. The Chilean research team was supported by Fondecyt (grant no. 1161371), the Center for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (grant no. FONDAP 15130009) and the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Research (grant no. FONDAP 15110006) awarded to R.G. The Dutch part of this research was funded by FWO Odysseus grant no. G.O.E66.14N awarded to C.L. The English part of this research was funded by the ESRC commissioning grant no. 403006662 awarded to D.A. and G.T. S.W. was funded by a grant from the Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada. I.Ž. was funded by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (grant no. 179018). The Polish part of this research was funded by the Foundation for Polish Science (TEAM), co-financed by the EU ERDF (‘Language as a Cure’ Project) awarded to M.Bilewicz and O.K. E.O. was supported by the HSE University Basic Research Programme and the Russian Academic Excellence Project ‘5–100’. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We thank L. Liekefett, D. Kokdemir, D. Indreica, A. Figueiredo, N. Mühlemann and Y. Koc for their additional help with the translation and/or data collection. We also thank J. Ginges and L. Eisner for their insightful comments. Finally, we thank the SoSci Panel, PlanetRomeo, East meets West, Psychologie Heute and all other LGBTIQ+ organizations for distributing our survey.

Author information

T.H. and J.U. conceived the primary idea. T.H., J.U., M.Bernardino, D.V. and R.G. conceptualized the project and acquired the seed money. T.H., J.U., M.Bernardino, D.V., N.S., C.V., S.S., E.P.V., L.R.T., R.G., R.D., D.A., H.S., J.Z. and A.A. were involved in research design/instrument construction. T.H., J.U., M.Bernardino and D.V. wrote the draft of preregistration. T.H. and J.U. coordinated the project. T.H., J.U., M.Bernardino, N.S., C.L., D.V., S.S, L.R.T., E.P.V., R.G., R.K.D., D.A., H.P.S., M.Brankovic., S.W., J.Z., M.P., A.L.A., I.Z., A.P., N.A.L., M.S., A.G., H.O., M.Bilewicz., A.K., O.K., S.O., E.M., M.N., P.G., J.P., R.B., M.J., E.O., O.B., D.C.B., J.C., M.D., L.D., A.H.L., K.K. and L.M.U. were involved in data collection. T.H. and S.S. undertook data preparation. A.G., J.U., T.H. and S.S. conducted data analysis. T.H. and J.U., supported by S.S., prepared the draft manuscript. C.V., N.S., L.R.T., E.P.V., M.Bernadino, D.V., R.D., S.W., H.S., M.P., M.Brankovic., R.G. and D.A., supported by A.K., E.M., J.Z., I.Z., N.L., M.N., J.P., M.S., A.A., M.Bilewicz, R.B., P.G., S.O., O.B. and E.O., revised the manuscript. L.R.T. did the final editing.

Correspondence to Tabea Hässler.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–5, Supplementary Tables 1–13, and Supplementary methods and references.

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Hässler, T., Ullrich, J., Bernardino, M. et al. A large-scale test of the link between intergroup contact and support for social change. Nat Hum Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0815-z

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