Capturing Everyday Contact: Perceptions, Experiences and Measurement of Everyday Intergroup Contact in Public and Private Settings
Keil , Tina
Date: 29 November 2017
University of Exeter
PhD in Psychology
Increasingly, culturally and ethnically diverse environments provide an abundance of ordinary, everyday intergroup encounters, especially in public settings---often consisting of a conglomeration of positive and negative experiences. Yet few intergroup contact studies have focused on measuring and assessing contact in public settings. ...
Increasingly, culturally and ethnically diverse environments provide an abundance of ordinary, everyday intergroup encounters, especially in public settings---often consisting of a conglomeration of positive and negative experiences. Yet few intergroup contact studies have focused on measuring and assessing contact in public settings. Reasons for this include both theoretical and methodological considerations. However, before the impact of mundane, everyday encounters on prejudice reduction can be assessed, it is necessary to examine the following questions: (1) Which situations are perceived as intergroup contact by participants? (2) How do individuals conceptualise where the boundaries for contact lie? (3) How are public and private forms of contact typically experienced? (4) Do they differ in the ways researchers have assumed in the past? and (5) Which methods are most appropriate for assessing public encounters? How can memory bias, temporality and locatedness be taken into account? Using qualitative, quantitative and near-time in-the-field methods, the following research examines these aspects in both public and private settings and provides first insights into how a novel method---the Contact Logger---can be used to assess the effects of public and private contact on attitudes. A three-day diary/interview study (N=17) explored how contact is experienced, understood and conceptualised in a variety of everyday intergroup contexts. This was followed by a survey study (N=525) that examined the boundaries of what is typically perceived as being contact. Insights from both studies fed into the development of a context-aware mobile application, which enabled the capturing of near-time intergroup encounters in situ. The usability of the resulting research tool---the Contact Logger---was tested, leading to further refinements. Following an initial feasibility study (N=104) that explored contact between young and older people, a field experiment (N=112) examined intergenerational contact in public and private contexts. Data collected with the Contact Logger were analysed on aggregate and day-to-day levels, and where possible compared to traditional retrospective survey data. Results from the first two studies indicated that while traditional intergroup encounters, such as contact with family and friends, are clearly conceptualised and viewed as contact, experiences and perceptions of contact in public settings are more disparate. Moreover, effects of such contact on attitudes are dependent on the idiosyncratic meaning attributed to the specific encounter as well as past experiences. Near-time data from a field-experiment (Study 5) provided evidence that intergroup encounters reported in situ compared to retrospective survey data differed in key variables (i.e., contact quality, duration, perceived status and group typicality). Correlational analyses between near-time and retrospective measures showed less correspondence than expected. Further, additional day-to-day analyses revealed that attitudes towards older people were less positive during weekends than weekdays, indicating that attitudes may be more dynamic than previously thought. Findings, as well as the different methodological and theoretical approaches, are critically discussed. Finally, a broad range of further applications for the Contact Logger are presented and important limitations are discussed.
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