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Benjamin Fell

BA MSc DPhil

Postdoctoral Researcher

Research Summary

How do the effects and causes of negative contact compare with those of positive contact?

My research focus is on the effects of negative intergroup contact. During the past 60 years intergroup contact research has been characterised by a marked positivity bias. Only relatively recently have attempts been made to establish the effects of negative contact experiences with outgroup members. Of the research which has been conducted in this area, the primary focus has been on determining whether the effects of negative contact might be stronger than those of positive contact. In addition to replicating such findings, a focus of my research is determining whether positive and negative contact might interact. 

As part of my doctorate, I analysed of several existing data sets that included some measure of negative contact, with a view to identifying the possible interactions between positive and negative experiences. I found repeated evidence for the existence of valenced contact interactions, specifically buffering effects (in which exposure to positive contact reduced the effect of negative contact on outgroup attitudes) and positive augmentation effects (in which exposure to negative contact reduced the effect of positive contact). 

I am now funded by an ESRC Open Research Area Grant into the effects of positive and negative intergroup contact. A key aim of the project is to replicate the aforementioned interaction effects in various new contact settings (using longitudinal surveys, diary studies, and social network data), as well as to expand upon the experimental research that formed the latter half of my doctoral thesis. The experimental work focuses on order effects within valenced contact, as well as its effects on intergroup category salience. 

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