The Importance of Target and Audience in Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination through Intergroup Contact and Extended Contact
This dissertation compared the efficacy of intergroup contact theory with an alternative prejudice reduction intervention, extended contact. An experimental manipulation utilizing direct and extended contact conditions was created in an effort to reduce heterosexual Americans’ sexual prejudice and subtle discrimination against the LGBTQ+ group. Over the course of two studies, I tested conditions that could give extended contact an advantage over direct contact; I hypothesized that extended contact with a straight, self-identified ally would make extended contact more effective than direct contact with a gay person. Study 1 was a 2 (participant gender) x 2 (target’s sexual orientation: gay, straight) x 2 (target’s explicit support for LGBTQ+ issues: ally/advocate, non-ally/non-advocate) between-subjects experimental design. Participants viewed a video in which a male target shared facts about sexual orientation and the harmfulness of prejudice and discrimination. Participants completed an online pre-test and a post-test following the manipulation. Study 2 was essentially a replication of Study 1, but an attempt was made to strengthen the manipulation of target’s explicit support for LGBTQ+ issues. Results showed that among participants with low previous contact with the LGBTQ+ group, contact with a gay-identified target resulted in lower subtle discrimination than extended contact. The hypothesis that an ally would make extended contact more effective than direct contact was not supported in either study. However, Study 1 showed a novel finding that advocacy for LGBTQ+ issues was associated with higher subtle discrimination among those with low to no contact with the LGBTQ+ group, regardless of sexual orientation of the contact. This finding has implications for the application of prejudice reduction interventions in the real world. In addition, a pre-post comparison of prejudice showed that the manipulation itself reduced prejudice, over and above target’s self-disclosed identity, suggesting potential for a video-format prejudice reduction intervention tool that can be distributed through online channels for a large-scale reach.