The Contact Caveat: Negative Contact Predicts Increased Prejudice More Than Positive Contact Predicts Reduced Prejudice

Fiona Kate Barlow, Stefania Paolini, Anne Pedersen, Matthew J. Hornsey, Helena R.M. Radke, Jake Harwood, Mark Rubin, Chris G. Sibley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

222 Scopus citations


Contact researchers have largely overlooked the potential for negative intergroup contact to increase prejudice. In Study 1, we tested the interaction between contact quantity and valence on prejudice toward Black Australians (n = 1,476), Muslim Australians (n = 173), and asylum seekers (n = 293). In all cases, the association between contact quantity and prejudice was moderated by its valence, with negative contact emerging as a stronger and more consistent predictor than positive contact. In Study 2, White Americans (n = 441) indicated how much positive and negative contact they had with Black Americans on separate measures. Although both quantity of positive and negative contact predicted racism and avoidance, negative contact was the stronger predictor. Furthermore, negative (but not positive) contact independently predicted suspicion about Barack Obama's birthplace. These results extend the contact hypothesis by issuing an important caveat: Negative contact may be more strongly associated with increased racism and discrimination than positive contact is with its reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1629-1643
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012



  • contact hypothesis
  • negative contact
  • positive contact
  • prejudice
  • racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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