Social Connection, Judgments of Similarity and Intergroup Relations
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The purpose of this research is to test the idea that creating a social connection with an outgroup member by thinking about how the self is similar to this outgroup member produces positive intergroup outcomes, whereas creating a sense of connection by thinking about how the outgroup member is similar to the self produces less positive intergroup outcomes. An overview of the literature on connections between the self and outgroup members, and the importance of the framing of such connection is reviewed in Chapter 1. In Chapter 2, I examine whether a sense of social connection can be created and whether the nature of this connection is influenced by the way the similarity between the self and the outgroup member is framed. I find non-significant effects, though in an interesting pattern suggesting that a better manipulation may produce stronger effects. In Chapter 3 I examine how framing of the connection to an outgroup member affects stereotyping of, and interest in, the outgroup. I find that participants tend to project their own personality onto an outgroup member when their connection with him or her is framed as how the outgroup member is similar to the self. They thus show decreased stereotyping but also less interest in the other’s culture. In contrast, when participants make a connection to an outgroup member and their connection with him or her is framed as the self is similar to the outgroup member, they display an interest in the outgroup culture and a decrease in stereotyping that is accompanied by more positive outgroup evaluation. In Chapter 4, I extend these findings by demonstrating that when participants make a social connection with an outgroup member and this connection is framed as how the self is similar to the outgroup, then they experience more distress when they learn about a real case of discrimination against a different outgroup member. In Chapter 5, I tried to create a social connection with a member of an outgroup by having them notice that they share a birthday with the outgroup member. Unfortunately, this manipulation did not appear to produce my expected effects, suggesting that sharing interests as opposed to a birthday may be important in creating the type of connection necessary for my effects. In Chapter 6 I examine how the social connection with an outgroup member can effect a social interaction with that outgroup member and openness to cultural activities of the outgroup. Creating a social connection in which similarity to an outgroup member is framed as the self being similar to the outgroup member leads to a more positive online interaction with increased friendliness toward the outgroup members and greater interest in the other’s culture. In Chapter 7, I discuss the theoretical implications for these findings, their weaknesses and directions for future research.