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We assessed evidence for a contextual effect of positive intergroup contact, whereby the effect of intergroup contact between social contexts (the between-level effect) on outgroup prejudice is greater than the effect of individual-level contact within contexts (the within-level effect). Across seven large-scale surveys (five cross-sectional and two longitudinal), using multilevel analyses, we found a reliable contextual effect. This effect was found in multiple countries, operationalizing context at multiple levels (regions, districts, and neighborhoods), and with and without controlling for a range of demographic and context variables. In four studies (three cross-sectional and one longitudinal) we showed that the association between context-level contact and prejudice was largely mediated by more tolerant norms. In social contexts where positive contact with outgroups was more commonplace, norms supported such positive interactions between members of different groups. Thus, positive contact reduces prejudice on a macrolevel, whereby people are influenced by the behavior of others in their social context, not merely on a microscale, via individuals' direct experience of positive contact with outgroup members. These findings reinforce the view that contact has a significant role to play in prejudice reduction, and has great policy potential as a means to improve intergroup relations, because it can simultaneously impact large numbers of people.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





3996 - 4000


diversity, multilevel analysis, social norms, trust, Cross-Sectional Studies, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Longitudinal Studies, Models, Psychological, Prejudice, Social Behavior