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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Richard Crisp

Hodson, G., Crisp, R. J., Meleady, R. & Earle, M. (2018). Intergroup Contact as an Agent of Cognitive Liberalization. Perspectives on Psychological Science 13(5): 523-548.

Author(s) from Durham


Intergroup contact is widely recognized as one of the most validated methods of improving attitudes toward out-groups. Yet what is intergroup contact “good for” beyond this function? To answer this question we take a panoramic view of the literature, beginning with the recognition that contact is multifaceted in both form (e.g., face-to-face, indirect, simulated) and outcome (e.g., attitudes, cognition, behavior). Taking this highly inclusive view of what contact is and what contact does suggests that it plays a fundamental role in the shaping of human cognition. An increasingly diverse body of research demonstrates that contact exerts a generalizing reaction across target out-groups, making respondents less inward looking and more open to experiences. Contact shapes ideology regarding how the world ought to operate (i.e., ideologies about social hierarchy or regulation); over time, it can promote new ways of problem-solving, enhance cognitive flexibility, and foster creativity. For these reasons, we believe that contact is a key liberalizing agent that shapes human cognition and experience; consequently, contact theory should now share the stage with other prominent theories (e.g., cognitive dissonance) that speak to a broader understanding of human nature.