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Recent research on intergroup contact has shown how interactions with outgroup members may both decrease and increase motivations to achieve social equality. Similarly, social identity theory has identified the conditions that lead individuals to challenge unequal social systems. Integrating these two major theories, the current study examined the processes underlying the relationship between intergroup contact and participants’ willingness to engage in collective action to challenge social inequality. Specifically, we tested sociostructural variables (status legitimacy and stability, and permeability of group boundaries) as potential mediators of contact in a sample of both advantaged (Italian high school students, N = 392) and disadvantaged (immigrant high school students, N = 165) group members. We found that contact was positively associated with motivation for change, an effect mediated by decreased perceived legitimacy of status differences. Moreover, for the advantaged group, membership salience moderated the effects of quality (but not quantity) of contact. Indirect effects were instead not moderated by content of contact (an index considering the extent to which contact was characterized by a focus on differences vs. commonalities between groups). Theoretical and practical implications of findings are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Group Processes and Intergroup Relations

Publication Date





26 - 47