According to this hypothesis, if people in conflict are brought together then they will begin to understand each other better and the conflict will be resolved.
In effect, the rules of social psychology dictate that increasing contact between different people will help reduce prejudice towards an out-group.
In an ideal world, these psychological theories should work because of their simplistic intuitiveness. However, we see examples to the contrary in plentiful. The most prolific example is that of gender equality issues that exist even though men are in constant contact with women.
Conditions for Contact Hypothesis
There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled if the contact hypothesis is to operate successfully:
- Eradicate conflict: The root cause of the problem should be addressed or it will continue to be a thorn in either party’s side.
- Mutual dependency: When one party can cleanly pull out anytime leaving the other in a bind, the skewed power play can wreck mutual understanding.
- Equal status: If one party enjoys more privileges than the other, this again results in an imbalance of power.
- Positive interaction: The setting in which the parties meet should always be positive and create a sense of fair play.
- Typical contact: The people who represent the other group must be model representatives so that positive perceptions about the group become universal for that population.
- Social equality: When the groups come into contact with each other, the general; norm must be set as all parties being of equal status.
Strategies for tolerance
Many a time, all the conditions for the contact hypothesis to work may exist but prejudice does not decrease due to the fact that people segregate themselves even if not asked to. To foster the development of meaningful inter-group relations, there are some strategies suggested.
The most important is team activities like team sports where the different groups are brought together to fulfill a common goal. This logic is also followed by many US schools that use the jigsaw puzzle teaching technique where students are broken up into mixed groups in order to complete assignments together.
If you are a manager facing such problems, try these strategies to get people to work together.