The Impact of Contact on Intergroup Relations: A Longitudinal Approach to Studying Contact Factors (Quality, Quantity, Group Salience, Contact Norms) and Group Status in the Context of Organizational Mergers

Anne O'Brien (2011). The Impact of Contact on Intergroup Relations: A Longitudinal Approach to Studying Contact Factors (Quality, Quantity, Group Salience, Contact Norms) and Group Status in the Context of Organizational Mergers PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Anne O'Brien
Thesis Title The Impact of Contact on Intergroup Relations: A Longitudinal Approach to Studying Contact Factors (Quality, Quantity, Group Salience, Contact Norms) and Group Status in the Context of Organizational Mergers
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-04
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Deborah Terry
Associate Professor Julie Duck
Total pages 331
Total black and white pages 331
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary The research program investigated the relationship between contact and intergroup outcomes by examining: 1) the impact of contact quality, from low to high quality; 2) the interplay between contact quality and the amount of contact, group salience, and contact norms; 3) the perspective of both the high and low status group involved in the contact; 4) the cognitive and affective mediators; and 5) the impact of contact over time. Two studies were conducted in organizational merger contexts where intergroup contact between a high and low status group was functionally prescribed (and thus not restricted to those who chose to have contact). The first cross-sectional study was conducted in the context of an imminent merger between two hospitals. The second longitudinal study followed a merger between two scientific government divisions, with data collected at three times: soon after the merger, 6 months following, and 18 months after the merger. Four contact dimensions were assessed: contact quality, contact quantity, group salience (assessed in all studies), and contact norms (Study 2, Times 2 and 3). In addition to ingroup bias, intergroup outcomes included proposed mediators of the contact-prejudice relationship (intergroup anxiety, common ingroup representation, and identification with the common ingroup), and job satisfaction. Overall, there were six key findings. First, there was evidence for the distinctive and interactive contributions of contact quality and quantity. Across studies, contact quality consistently predicted intergroup outcomes (either as a main effect or qualified by an interaction with other contact dimensions or with group status). Higher quality predicted lower ingroup bias and intergroup anxiety, and higher common ingroup representations, identification with the common ingroup, and job satisfaction. There was evidence in Study 2 that the quality of the initial contact was particularly important. While later contact quality (i.e., contact that occurred 6 and 18 months after the initiation of contact) continued to be an important predictor of how each group perceived and responded to the “other” (ingroup bias and intergroup anxiety), the impact of later contact quality on responses to the new intergroup context (seeing oneself and one’s group as being part of, and belonging to a common ingroup, as well as job satisfaction) reduced over time. In contrast to quality, the findings for contact quantity were not as consistent. Despite a positive correlation between quality and quantity, in Study 2, more Time 1 contact predicted poorer intergroup outcomes at Time 2 and Time 3 (on common ingroup measures and job satisfaction). Moreover, Time 1 quality and quantity interacted in the prediction of Time 2 ingroup bias such that the amount of contact was positively related to ingroup bias at low contact quality (cf. Pettigrew’s friendship model, 1997, 1998a; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). While the negative effects of contact quantity were not consistently found across outcomes or studies, the results highlight the potential of contact to be associated with negative intergroup outcomes. The second key finding extends current understanding of the role of group salience. In accord with the intergroup contact model (Brown & Hewstone, 2005), contact quality predicted lower ingroup when group salience was high. However, contrary to this model, at low quality contact, group salience predicted an exacerbation of ingroup bias, while at high quality contact, ingroup bias did not differ as a function of group salience. The pattern of results suggests that salience is of particular importance in generalizing the experience of low quality contact. Third, contact norms emerged as a distinctive predictor of intergroup outcomes, particularly common ingroup measures, and mediated the positive relationship between group status and these outcomes. Relative to contact quality, contact norms emerged as a stronger predictor of common ingroup outcomes at later stages in the contact context (that is, at 18 months compared to 6 months postmerger). Fourth, there was evidence for the substantive role of group status, predicting both contact (quality, norms) and intergroup outcomes, as well as moderating the relationship between quality and common ingroup measures. Quality predicted common ingroup representations and identification for low status group members only. Moreover, status differences were evident at low quality contact but not when the quality was high. Fifth, there was consistent evidence of contact quality predicting intergroup anxiety and common ingroup measures, but limited evidence for the mediating role of these factors in the contact-prejudice relationship. In Study 2 (Time 1 and Time 2), intergroup anxiety mediated the relationship between contact quality and ingroup bias when the relationships were analyzed cross-sectionally. However, mediation was not found when the relationships were analyzed longitudinally. Finally, the longitudinal results demonstrated the capacity of contact (quality and norms) to bring about long-term changes to intergroup relations and representations of a common ingroup. The findings also highlighted the importance of a longitudinal design in identifying key relationships and the changing patterns of relationships over time. Overall, the research findings illustrate the critical role of contact quality. The findings suggest that when contact quality is high, group factors recede in importance. However, when contact quality is low, group factors such as salience and status emerge as important predictors of heightened ingroup bias and lower common ingroup outcomes, respectively. Such an understanding has important implications for both the conceptual development of contact models and the translation of such models into social policy and actions. Overall, we are reminded that intergroup contact is a powerful vehicle, one with potential for positive and negative contributions to the societies in which we interact, and shape.
Keyword Contact Quality
Intergroup Relations
Ingroup Bias
Group Status
Group Salience
Contact Norms
Intergroup Anxiety
Common Identity
Mergers
Additional Notes Page numbers to be printed in landscape: 116, 128, 148, 161, 166, 180, 193, 209, 230, 240, 242, 246, 249, 252, 255, 258, 270

 
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