The contact space: A novel framework for intergroup contact research

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101 Scopus citations


This article presents a new framework for understanding research on the intersection between language, communication, and intergroup contact. Contact theory has described a variety of ways in which contact between groups can reduce prejudice and improve intergroup relations. However, the field has become fragmented by the study of a variety of forms of contact whose interconnections have not been elucidated, and it has paid insufficient attention to the language and communicative dynamics of the contact event itself. This article accounts for the variation in forms of contact studied by arraying them in two-dimensional space organized by (a) involvement of self in contact and (b) richness of self-outgroup experience. The former pertains to whether an individual is directly involved in interaction with an outgroup member (vs. merely observing such contact); the latter pertains to the multiplicity of channels and senses through which one experiences the outgroup member. These two dimensions are argued to be largely orthogonal. The two-dimensional space is used to organize mediators and moderators in the field, to specify in detail the intersection between contact and issues of language and communication, as well as to outline areas of particular promise for specific contact interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-177
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Group salience
  • Intergroup communication
  • Intergroup contact theory
  • Media richness
  • Self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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