Opening the black box of contact: Unravelling the ways through which positive contact is imagined in a post-conflict context

Maria Ioannou*, Elisavet Panagiotou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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While there is growing support for the prejudice-reduction effects of imagined contact, knowledge of the content of imagery in imagined contact studies remains scarce. This qualitative study aims to address this gap by unravelling the ways of imagining an intergroup encounter that is indeed positive. Our data consist of the imagined contact stories of 43 participants in two imagined contact studies conducted in Cyprus, a post-conflict context characterised by low levels of contact because of long-standing division across ethnic lines. Our analysis yielded four themes corresponding to four ways of construing positive contact: imagining a good Other, a similar Other, an inferior Other, as well as imagining successfully overcoming obstacles emerging before or during contact. While participants came up with ways to imagine positive contact that are consistent with intergroup contact literature (e.g., intergroup similarities, decategorisation), a closer look at the findings reveals that in composing a positive intergroup experience, participants made use of dysfunctional stereotypes and conflict-perpetuating narratives whose objective is to protect their superior status and to ensure their safety during contact. The findings serve as a word of caution for imagined contact as a prejudice-reduction intervention and they also attest to the importance of deeply knowing the psychological composition of the groups which (imagined) contact interventions typically aim to tackle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-672
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Community & Applied Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2020


  • conflict
  • Cyprus
  • imagined contact
  • prejudice
  • qualitative analysis

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