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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Seedcorn Grant Report by Francesca Prati

08.02.2018, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

University of Bologna, Italy: Project: 01 September 2017-28 February 2018

I would like to thank EASP for the Seedcorn grant which supported my current adventure into the world of migrant groups. I had little expertise in the strategies to reduce prejudice of dominant group members towards minorities (i.e., migrants, gay, women) prior to this grant, and it has been especially delightful to have the opportunity to understand the perspective of the minority of migrants and learn more about the relevant and urgent topic of social integration.

In this regard, we know that positive intergroup contact may reduce outgroup prejudice, but also that negative contact has the potential to worsen intergroup relationships. Yet little is known about the interplay between positive and negative intergroup contact. Given that people are frequently exposed to both types of contact, the present research intended to understand whether positive contact may exert stronger effects than negative contact in promoting acculturation strategies and social integration. Therefore, I took the perspective of migrant people in Italy, by analyzing the their contact with Italian native people.

So what did I aim to accomplish in this study? A longitudinal study allowed me to examine the effects of intergroup positive and negative (frequency and intensity) contact on migrant people strategies of acculturation, collective actions, self-efficacy and stereotype threat.

I originally proposed to carry out two research studies, testing the perspective of both migrants (longitudinal study 1) and Italians (longitudinal study 2). Up to now, I conducted only the first and more relevant study.

One hundred migrant people in Italy (52.8 % women, Mage = 35.90 years) completed a paper-pencil questionnaire (30 minutes) administered at two time-points, with a three-month intervals between each session. Participants were contacted at the Caritas Center of Bologna. Different nationalities were represented, immigrants came from Cameroon (26.4 %), Morocco (24.5 %), Romania (7.5 %), Sri Lanka (7.5 %), Tunisia (5.7 %), Ivory Coast (5.7 %), Iran (5.7 %), Nigeria (3.2 %), China (1.9 %), Togo (1.9 %). Different levels of education were represented: Participants who did not attend any school were 13.2 %, those who attended elementary schools were 39.6 %, those who attend secondary school were 30.2 %, and those who attend University were 17 %. In terms of economic situation, 13.2 % of the participants affirmed to be in a good condition, 62.3 % to be neither in good nor in poor condition and 24.5 % of them affirmed to be in a poor economic condition. 43.4 % of them were married. Moreover, 54.7 % of participants were Christians, 35.8 % were Muslims and the others did not report their religious affiliation. The majority of the participants also did not report their political orientation, whereas 17 % of them declare to be left-wingers, 7.5 % centrists and 3.8 % right-wingers.

What did I find? In brief, evidence showed that the intensity of positive contact of migrant people with Italians predicted behavioral intentions of acculturation and this effect was moderated by the frequency of negative contact. Migrants with few negative contacts with Italians, were more likely to increase their strategies of acculturation compared to those with more negative contacts with Italians. Evidence also showed that the intensity of negative contact of migrants with Italians predicted collection actions of migrants and this effect was moderated by the frequency of positive contacts with Italians. In fact, migrants with more positive contacts were more likely to participate in collective actions compared to those with less positive contacts. Overall, evidence suggest that both positive and negative contact of migrants with Italians contribute to affect their behavioral intentions of acculturation and their collective actions to promote their rights. Indeed, positive contact is not enough to increase acculturation, but also reduced negative contact with Italians affect this outcome. Moreover, if positive contact does not predict collective actions of migrants, however it influences the impact of negative contact on this outcome, contributing to promote the behavioral intentions of migrants to obtain equality.

Why is it important? Given the recent terror attacks and rise of nationalist movements around Europe, this research has also practical implications. Knowing when benign effects of positive contact of migrant people may be compromised by pernicious effects of negative contact can be useful to guide social policies that improve social integration. Indeed, considering the point of view of minorities, those that actually are discriminated, evidence helps to establish when and how contact have the best chance of success in promoting intergroup relationships.

To conclude, starting this research project has been an important experience for both the theoretical and practical implications of this line of research, and I would like to thank the EASP for awarding me the Seedcorn grant that enabled me to do so.