When people from different groups meet, what are the effects? That is the question that intergroup contact theory sets out to answer. This theory predicts the effects on participants' intergroup attitudes and behavior when members of two distinguishable groups interact. What was originally a modest “hypothesis” put forward by Gordon Allport in 1954 has developed into a fullblown theory of considerable complexity.

Popular opinion on the subject is split. Some hold that contact between groups only causes conflict; “good fences make good neighbors” is their contention. Others believe intergroup interaction is an essential part of any remedy for reducing prejudice and conflict between groups. So this intensively studied area of social psychology is marked by controversy and is directly relevant for such policy issues as desegregation ...

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