Impact of Diversity on Intergroup Relations: The Missing Dimension of Intergroup Contact

Berkeley Political Psychology Colloquium
Thursday, February 21, 2013
4:00pm to 6:00pm
IGS Library, 109 Moses Hall
UC Berkeley

My talk will begin by considering the pessimistic conclusion of political scientist, Robert Putnam that living in ethnically diverse areas is associated with ‘distrust’, not just of ethnic outgroup, but also ethnic ingroup, members. I will challenge his findings, primarily, for having failed to include an adequate measure of intergroup contact (i.e., not just whether people live in ethnically diverse areas, but the quantity and quality of cross-group interaction they experience). I conclude that a broad approach to conceiving and measuring ‘contact’ is necessary, and that contact conceived in this manner is crucial to understanding the impact of diversity. However, the research practices of social psychologists appear partly to blame for the limited impact of our theory and research on public policy in this area.