Interpersonal contact with members of different groups can reduce prejudice and encourage people to see members of other social categories as part of their own ingroups. This research examines a quality of the social environment that might facilitate this type of contact: social capital, or the norms about trust and reciprocity within a social network. People who believe that their communities have high levels of social capital may be likely to have positive contact with members of other social groups. This positive contact could then lead these people to focus on their shared identity as members of that community. Both of these processes could lead to improved attitudes about other groups. Two studies are conducted to test these relationships. Study 1 surveys students about their perceptions of social capital levels within their university community as well as their experiences with students of other races and their attitudes about racial groups. This study provides cross-sectional evidence that social capital relates to contact quality, social categorization and racial attitudes. Study 2 extends this theory by investigating how these variables affect each other over time. Panel data support the claim that social capital is an antecedent of intergroup contact and categorization. These two studies provide novel evidence that qualities of the social environment can influence individual-level experiences and intergroup attitudes.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2011. Major: Psychology. Advisors: Eugene Borgida, Chris Federico. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 165 pages, appendices A-D.
Fisher, Emily Lynn.
Community and prejudice: relationships among social capital, intergroup contact, group categorization, and racial attitudes..
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