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Intergroup contact, social dominance and environmental concern : a test of the cognitive-liberalization hypothesis.

Meleady, R. and Crisp, R. J. and Dhont, K. and Hopthrow, T. (2020) 'Intergroup contact, social dominance and environmental concern : a test of the cognitive-liberalization hypothesis.', Journal of psychology and social psychology., 118 (6). pp. 1146-1164.


Intergroup contact is among the most effective ways to improve intergroup attitudes. Although it is now beyond any doubt that contact can reduce prejudice, in this article we provide evidence that its benefits can extend beyond intergroup relations—a process referred to as cognitive liberalization (Hodson, Crisp, Meleady, & Earle, 2018). We focus specifically on the impact of intergroup contact on environmentally relevant attitudes and behavior. Recent studies suggest that support for an inequality-based ideology (social dominance orientation [SDO]) can predict both intergroup attitudes and broader environmental conduct. Individuals higher in SDO are more willing to exploit the environment in unsustainable ways because doing so aids the production and maintenance of hierarchical social structures. In 4 studies conducted with British adults, we show that by promoting less hierarchical and more egalitarian viewpoints (reduced SDO), intergroup contact encourages more environmentally responsible attitudes and behavior. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal data support this model. Effects are more strongly explained by reductions in an antiegalitarian motive than a dominance motive. We discuss how these findings help define an expanded vision for intergroup contact theory that moves beyond traditional conflict-related outcomes.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:© 2019 APA, all rights reserved. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Date accepted:26 April 2019
Date deposited:02 May 2019
Date of first online publication:23 May 2019
Date first made open access:23 May 2019

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