Social psychologists have used strategies consisting of contact

Social psychologists have used strategies consisting of contact, cooperation and communication to improve intergroup relations. This essay is divided into three sections, where each of the strategies will demonstrate how social psychologists use these approaches to improve intergroup relations.
Numerous studies have been conducted to show the association between contact and positive attitudes. One study has shown that South African Blacks and Whites felt less prejudice towards each other and possessed more sympathetic attitudes when interracial contact increased. (Dixon et al., 2007, 2010; Tredoux & Finchilescu). However, interaction may cause anxiety to arise when there is direct contact (Stephan & Stephan, 2000). Due to these experiences individuals may face, it can lead to conflicts and total avoidance of these interactions (Plant & Devine, 2003). However, where there is an observer of a cross-group relationship, this should result in an unthreatening experience for the individual. This alternative route is called extended (indirect) contact. Hence, extended contact should reduce prejudice and lead to more positive intergroup relations. Researchers have conducted three field based studies with out-group culture, both cross sectionally and longitudinally to analyse the effects of direct and extended contact on affective prejudice. The results have demonstrated that extended contact is only associated with reduced prejudice and increased engagement when direct contact is low. This shows that extended contact can foster positive intergroup relations, thus reducing prejudice. If direct intergroup contact is positive, this may avoid prejudice attitudes and intergroup conflicts (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew, 1998). This can encourage positive intergroup attitudes (Binder et al., 2009, Brown and Hewstone, 2005, Pettigrew and Tropp, 2006). “However, spontaneous direct intergroup friendships may be relatively rare so there would be significant practical challenges for implementing interventions that generate intergroup friendships on a large scale.” Furthermore, social psychologists never declared that all contact would ameliorate attitudes. Desegregation has had little effect on racial attitudes (Walter Stephan, 1986). There is a greater effect of negative experiences than positive contact (Graf et al., 2014; Paolini et al., 2014). There have been many ways to decrease negative intergroup attitudes by increasing contact for individuals but there is limited amount of progress in attempts to integrate contexts. There have been many studies that have been conducted that conclude that contact reduces prejudice. However, intergroup contact has shown that there has been an increased amount of prejudice in racially diverse areas (Ayers et al., 2009; Cernat, 2010; Quillian, 1995, 1996; Stein et al., 2000). A study conducted on Black Australians argued that the impact of negative contact is greater than the impact of positive contact in people’s attitudes towards prejudice. The finding have shown that although the frequency of positive contact exceeds negative contact experiences, the influence of negative contact override’s the influence of positive contact. However, Paolini (2010) stated that these findings do not challenge any of the research on how positive contact has had advantageous success in improving people’s attitudes on prejudice (Pettigrew ; Tropp, 2006). When contacts were competitive, unsupported by authorities, and unequal, poor results were expected by social psychologists (Pettigrew, 1988; Stephan, 1987). For example, this kind of behaviour was exhibited before 1954, African Americans had frequent encounters with many prejudiced Whites – as shoeshine men and domestic workers. Stereotypical attitudes are generated from unequal contact, hence causing inequality. Consequently, it is important that the contact be equal-status contact.
Even though equal status contact can aid intergroup relations, there needs to be other ways to improve intergroup relations. Sherif (1966) wanted a group of campers to work together cooperatively so he established a goal for the campers to accomplish. He produced a problem made which resulted in the boys working together cooperatively to achieve this superordinate goal. By having done this, it resulted in friendships developing between/within the boys. One study investigated how effective and efficient cooperation is between partners using a multiplayer game. Japanese participants were better than American participants by over five times in successfully exhibiting cooperative behaviour. The study has proposed that “the ability of individuals to cooperate” may be influenced by the “social obligations that operate in a culture.” From this finding, it shows that the ability to cooperate in a group scenario effectively varies from one culture to another. Sherif (1966) wanted to observe the effects of functional relations between social groups. Superordinate goals disregard differences people have by uniting members to ensure cooperative effort is displayed when working towards the shared goal. When relying on the out-group member to succeed in the game, hostility towards the out-group member decreased. The superordinate goal ensured that the members would work together cooperatively and encourage group unity. Nevertheless, if groups are unable to work cooperatively, then superordinate goals are not successful in reducing intergroup conflicts. Worchel, Andreoli and Folger (1977) set a superordinate goal between two groups where they created competitive, operative and independent relations. Superordinate goals had improved intergroup relations, however competitive groups had failed. Therefore, unsuccessful cooperation can aggravate intergroup relations. Research has been conducted to show how cooperative learning can have a positive impact on students’ social behaviours and attitudes toward instructional content. Farivar (1992) conducted a study on students testing their cooperative skills when working on a mathematic assignment. Students who were working together were more likely to stay focused on the task, were enthusiastic and motivated working on the task and relied on each other for help. On the contrary, students who worked individually got distracted easily, guessed answers or asked the teacher for help, or simply stopped working on the activities. The study has been successful in determining how cooperative behaviour imposes positive attitudes and improves relationships between individuals. However, there are limitations to the study. If cooperative learning activities will continue for a long duration, it is recommended by some learning models (e.g., Slavin, 1980, 1990) to regroup students frequently. It should be noted that some of the cooperative students may have been bored of working with the same person which may have “contributed to their preference to work alone.” The sample used in the study were fifth grade students from one elementary school. These results can be difficult to generalise to other age groups. Also, mathematics was the only subject used in the study, so the results do not reflect if the children are also cooperative in other tasks. Mathematic problems generally require only one correct answer, however writing tasks would be more difficult to complete when working together, due to the fact that everyone has different styles and ideas of writing. To improve external validity in this research, increased research is required to test the effects on other age groups and content areas.