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Research Looks at Meaningful Ways to Promote Intergroup Contact

Pollack Peacebuilding by Jeremy Pollack

Summary of:

Kauff, M., Beneda, M., Paolini, S., Bilewicz, M., Kotzur, P., O’Donnell, A. W., Stevenson, C., Wagner, U., & Christ, O. (2020). How do we get people into contact? Predictors of intergroup contact and drivers of contact seeking. Journal of Social Issues, 1-26. 

Background & Theory

This article evaluates why intergroup contact occurs; while much research is devoted to the benefits of intergroup contact, the authors here decided to look into why some might avoid intergroup contact, and how we might encourage intergroup contact to then reap those benefits.

Research Questions

Kauff et al., in “How do we get people into contact? Predictors of intergroup contact and drivers of contact seeking” (2020), seek to address the following questions:

    1. How can we encourage intergroup contact? 
    2. What factors play a role in the occurrence (or no occurrence) or intergroup contact?


The authors evaluated and discussed research and studies as they pertain to the field of intergroup contact. They specifically looked at information as it pertained to the micro-level, meso-level, and macro-level, and explored the various factors in each stage. Topics discussed included:

  • Micro-level: Motivations for intergroup contact and relational self-expansion and confidence in contact
  • Meso-level: Intragroup processes and history of severe (violent) intergroup conflict
  • Macro-level: Societal norms

The authors used this research and the various factors and stages to draw conclusions about intergroup contact and not only what its benefits are, but how we can help achieve them.


The authors found that many people tend to avoid intergroup contact despite contact opportunities. Overall, the reasons why one may choose to avoid or instigate intergroup contact varies greatly – a reason to avoid it for one person might be a reason for another person to instigate it. What may help further intergroup contact and the benefits it provides is coordinating contact-based interventions that best help meet an individuals’ needs, finding ways to let people witness intergroup contact and encouraging support within an ingroup for intergroup contact, taking into account the critical components that are necessary for intergroup contact following any intergroup violence and instead looking for common interests/beliefs/etc., implementing social policies that will encourage/promote intergroup contact, and adjusting social norms. There are various other ways that this might also be done, and further research should be done regarding this critical component for intergroup contact in society.

What This Means

  • Intergroup contact is a great way to promote a peaceful society, reduce discrimination, and can lead to many other benefits. Intergroup contact doesn’t magically happen, though; it is so critical that we continue to research ways to encourage intergroup contact, remove barriers to it, and adjust our social policies and norm to promote it.
  • We can all take steps to promote intergroup contact within our own ingroup(s) and communities. All of our small actions combined can make a larger impact on society, and can promote a change in how we all think about and engage in intergroup contact.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: It is hard to encourage intergroup contact when someone is not willing to do so, but there are ways to break down these barriers. Finding ways to do this might be critical in addressing regional or longstanding conflicts, and can promote a more peaceful society.

For everyone: It’s natural to want to stay around people who are like you, but there is great value in building relationships with those different from us, or at least learning to understand them. Can you find ways in your own life where you can interact with those different from yourself? The biggest key, to those both in and outside of your groups, is to be kind.


Natalie Davis

Natalie Davis is an Executive Assistant at George Mason University, which is the largest public research university in Virginia. Her role as a C-level executive assistant has made her an expert in communication, public relations, administrative support, and customer service. She has successfully completed a certificate program for Mason Administrative… MORE >

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