Reading: Implicit Bias and Contact: The Role of Interethnic Friendships

The studies conducted by Aberson, Shoemaker, and Tomolillo seek to provide evidence of Allport’s Contact Hypothesis through interethnic friendships. The Contact Hypothesis posits that contact with out-group members improves attitudes towards the out-group when individuals share equal status, common goals, are in a cooperative setting, and/or encouraged by authorities. The authors hoped to prove that contact through friendship was more effective in prejudice reduction than contact without friendship.

In addition to learning about the Contact Hypothesis, the two studies were really interesting to read in terms of how they conducted the studies and collected data. The first study explored views towards African-Americans and the second covered views towards Latinos. Both studies posed two hypotheses which distinguished between implicit and explicit bias.

To understand participants’ implicit bias, they used Inquisit Software by Millisecond (2002) and asked participants to complete four types of categorization tests. In one task, the computer randomly surfaced a series of names and nouns one at a time. In the first study, participants were asked to classify the name or noun as “White or negative” or “African American or positive.” This was considered the noncompatible block. In another task, participants were asked to classify the name or noun as “White or positive” or “African American or negative”. This was considered the compatible block. The authors observed the difference in reaction times between the noncompatible and compatible blocks to determine if the participant had a pro-White or pro-African American bias. 

To understand participants’ explicit bias, the authors used “the Modern Racism Scale, the Diversity Scale, and the Discrimination Scale by 5-point Likert-type scales.” Participants had to self-declare if they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights.”

Reading this article challenged me to think about contact theory, especially contact between friends. How might we foster inter-group friendships through digital settings? Is it worthwhile? I’m also interested in the effect of having a friend in the same group who has an interethnic friendship. Does the second-degree contact also benefit prejudice reduction? The article also surfaced interesting methodologies to measure prejudice reduction, of both implicit and explicit biases, which I am interested in exploring further.


Aberson, C. L., Shoemaker, C., & Tomolillo, C. (2004). Implicit bias and contact: The role of interethnic friendships. The Journal of Social Psychology, 144(3), 335-347.


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