The contact hypothesis states that, under the right conditions, contact between members of different groups leads to more positive intergroup relations. The authors track recent trends in contact theory to the emergence of extended, or indirect, forms of contact. These advances lead to an intriguing proposition: that simply imagining intergroup interactions can produce more positive perceptions of outgroups. The authors discuss empirical research supporting the imagined contact proposition and find it to be an approach that is at once deceptively simple and remarkably effective. Encouraging people to mentally simulate a positive intergroup encounter leads to improved outgroup attitudes and reduced stereotyping. It curtails intergroup anxiety and extends the attribution of perceivers' positive traits to others. The authors describe the advantages and disadvantages of imagined contact compared to conventional strategies, outline an agenda for future research, and discuss applications for policymakers and educators in their efforts to encourage more positive intergroup relations.
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