Intergroup contact - Panacea for prejudice?

Miles Hewstone, winner of the 2001 Presidents’ Award, on a key social psychological strategy for reducing intergroup conflict.

It is nearly 50 years since Gordon Allport, in his classic volume The Nature of Prejudice, expounded on the ‘contact hypothesis’ for future generations of social psychologists and policy makers. The idea was a deceptively simple one: It has sometimes been held that merely by assembling people without regard for race, color, religion, or national origin, we can thereby destroy stereotypes and develop friendly attitudes. (Allport, 1954, p.261) But, as Allport added, ‘the case is not so simple’, and I am one of several social psychologists who has struggled with these issues, in my case for some 17 years (see Hewstone & Brown, 1986). So what have I learnt?

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