Recent research and theorizing suggests that friendly cross-group contact, while effective at improving intergroup attitudes, can undermine disadvantaged group members’ collective action engagement. In a series of 3 experimental studies, the present research investigated “supportive contact” - friendly cross-group contact in which an advantaged group member demonstrates their interest and engagement in opposing group-based inequality. I hypothesized that supportive contact would not undermine collective action, and would instead empower disadvantaged group members, because of its potential to strengthen disadvantaged group members’ perceptions of injustice and ingroup identification. Study 1 focused on immigrants to Canada, and provided an opportunity for cross-group contact with a Canadian-born individual. Study 2 focused on international students at an Australian university, and investigated the effects of recalling past contact with a domestic student. These two studies revealed that compared to a number of other forms of friendly cross-group contact, supportive contact led to greater collective action engagement. Across both studies, increased perceptions of injustice emerged as the key mediator of the relationship between supportive contact and increased collective action engagement. Study 3 focused on cross-group contact between men and women, and revealed a complex pattern of results. Overall, supportive contact led to lower collective action engagement among women, compared to low supportiveness contact. However, analysis of the indirect effects revealed a pattern of results consistent with a suppressor effect: supportive contact also increased collective action engagement among women, due to the supportive group-based emotions shared by the male friend, and the positive impact of these emotions on ingroup identification. The paper discusses the promise of supportive contact, suggests applied applications, and makes recommendations for future research.
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Thesis advisor: Wright, Stephen
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