Anxieties toward Outgroup Members: Use of an (Elaborated) Imagined Contact Intervention with Undergraduate Students

Abstract

Negative emotional reactions toward those of differing social identities is both common and detrimental to the development of relationships that are essential for effective work, living, and educational spaces. In this study we assessed the impact of an (elaborated) imagined contact intervention (eICI) on undergraduate students’ anxiety levels toward those of other social groups in a course entitled “Counseling Diverse Populations.” Participants (n = 20) who completed an eICI reported reductions of anxiety in comparison to participants (n = 22) in an assessment-only condition who did not complete the intervention. At follow-up, however, decreases in anxiety were observed among all participants. Student qualitative commentary on the eICI reflected perceptions of increased awareness of personal biases and greater humanization of those from outgroups. Students also expressed a desire to increase contact with other groups so as to have opportunities to transcend group differences.

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Notes

  1. 1.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 1 Identity dimensions reported by students

Appendix 2 Post-Activity Discussion

The instructor shares the following: Today’s activity was based on Allport’s Contact theory (1954), which posits that, when we have certain kinds of contacts across groups, we can reduce negative reactions or anxieties toward others, which can increase our abilities to experience empathy for that person (Pettigrew, 1998). Optimal cross-group contact would include the following characteristics: (a) greater levels of equal status among persons from different groups, (b) cooperative work toward a shared goal, and (d) support of the interaction by an authority figure (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006; Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006, p. 342).

Prompt student discussion with the following questions:

  1. a.

    What are the barriers you have experienced, across your lifetime, to achieving positive interactions with those who differ from you? (Explain systemic forms of segregation—e.g., based on tax laws and redlining; http://www.blackpast.org/aah/redlining-1937)?

  2. b.

    How have you been impacted by those barriers (and/or lack of interactions)?

  3. c.

    What are solutions to overcoming those barriers?

  4. d.

    Look at your answers on your assessment sheet, comparing your responses before and after the activity that was read to you. What do you notice? If there are changes, what do you think brought about changes?

Following this discussion, ask students to write down, in the blank lines at the end of the assessment, what was most meaningful about the activity. Invite students to share what they wrote, if comfortable doing so.

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Malott, K., Wahesh, E. & Crawford, E. Anxieties toward Outgroup Members: Use of an (Elaborated) Imagined Contact Intervention with Undergraduate Students. Innov High Educ 44, 133–147 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-018-9453-z

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Keywords

  • Bias
  • Prejudice
  • Intergroup anxiety
  • Multicultural education
  • Counseling