Impact of diversity on intergroup relations: The missing dimension of intergroup contact

Date & time

3–5pm 1 October 2014


PSYC 149


Professor Miles Hewstone, Oxford University

Professor Miles Hewstone (University of Oxford) will begin by considering the pessimistic conclusion of political scientist, Robert Putnam that living in ethnically diverse areas is associated with ‘distrust’, not just of ethnic outgroup, but also ethnic ingroup, members. I will challenge his findings, primarily, for having failed to include an adequate measure of intergroup contact (i.e., not just whether people live in ethnically diverse areas, but the quantity and quality of cross-group interaction they experience). This critique is substantiated with recent multi-level data from surveys carried out in neighborhoods and schools varying in diversity.

The remainder of my talk presents an overview of some of my current research – including cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys, social network analysis, and observational studies. I provide evidence for the impact of two different kinds of contact (direct and extended); and consider the variety of outcome measures that contact impacts (especially generalized effects from one outgroup to other outgroups). There remain, however, two ‘enemies’ of contact – negative contact, and ‘resegregation’ – both of which I will confront. I conclude that a broad approach to conceiving and measuring ‘contact’ is necessary, and that contact conceived in this manner is crucial to understanding the impact of diversity. However, the research practices of social psychologists appear partly to blame for the limited impact of our theory and research on public policy in this area.

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