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Friday, October 21, 2022

“Everybody’s doing it”: Exploring the consequences of intergroup contact norms

Boss, H., Buliga, E., & MacInnis, C. C. (2022). 
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.


Newcomers to a country can strongly benefit from having positive intergroup contact with host country residents. Often, however, such contact does not occur. Norms surrounding intergroup contact between newcomers and host country residents were explored over three studies. Correlational relationships among positive perceived contact norms, positive attitudes, and behavioural intentions supporting contact were demonstrated over multiple studies. Further, an experimental manipulation indicating higher (vs. lower and control) contact between host country residents and newcomers predicted behavioural intentions toward future intergroup contact through heightened intergroup contact norms and more positive attitudes toward newcomers. Implications of using norms as a means to impact intergroup relations are discussed.

From General Discussion

Across studies, we demonstrated that perceived norms surrounding contact between Canadians and newcomers can influence attitudes toward newcomers, and one’s willingness to engage in contact with them. These findings are consistent with the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991), such that perceived ingroup norms and attitudes are important predictors of behavioural intentions. Our findings were also consistent with group norms theory (Sherif & Sherif, 1953), such that perceived norms were strong predictors of attitudes toward newcomers. A manipulation involving reading a single newspaper article had clear implications for the perceived norms of participants in Studies 2–3. This has implications for discussions of newcomers in the media. For example, newcomer-serving organizations seeking to attract volunteers should be careful with how requests are framed. Projecting perceptions of ingroup disinterest in or disengagement from outgroups may damage attitudes and contact intentions among individuals who might otherwise be desired volunteers. As such, it may be ideal for newcomer-serving agencies to focus on the contact that is occurring rather than on the lack of contact when seeking to attract new volunteers.


We provide evidence that perceived social norms surrounding contact between ingroup and outgroup members can play an important role in attitudes toward outgroups and intentions to interact with these individuals in the future. Our findings are specific to the context of contact between Canadians and newcomers to Canada but may generalize to similar contexts. Our findings suggest that norm-based interventions can be a means to promote positive intergroup relations. Promoting positive norms about intergroup contact to the dominant group may be a valuable tool for increasing contact with newcomers, an important outcome given that intergroup contact can facilitate positive integration for new immigrants and refugees.