WHEN TWO NATURAL GROUPS MEET: PRIOR OUTGROUP ATTITUDES PREDICTED SUBSEQUENT SOCIAL IDENTIFICATIONS
Hong, Y.Y., Chan, G., Chiu, C.Y., Ip, G. and Wong, Y.M., The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
Since Gordon Allport (1954) proposed the Contact Hypothesis, researchers have not ceased to identify the optimal conditions under which intergroup contacts would lead to better intergroup relations. Recently, based on Social Identity Theory (SIT), much research has examined how participants' social identifications are related to intergroup relations. Whereas SIT posits that social identity determines outgroup attitudes, Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT), a rival theory, maintains that outgroup attitudes give rise to social identification. We tested these seemingly incompatible conceptions in Hong Kong's intergroup context. In two studies (a 4-wave longitudinal study across the Hong Kong 1997 political transition and a 5- day summer camp study), we tracked Hong Kong participants' changes in social identifications (as Hong Kongers vs Chinese) and outgroup attitudes (towards Mainland new arrivals in Hong Kong) subsequent to intensified intergroup contacts. Findings from both studies lent stronger support to RCT than to SIT. Our findings showed that prior outgroup attitudes affect subsequent change in superordinate identification. Implications of the findings for the Contact Hypothesis and enhancement of intergroup relations were discussed. The present research revealed that intergroup contacts have the potential to maintain intergroup relations for those who held positive attitudes to begin with, but might not be effective to those who held negative attitudes to begin with.