The Contact Conundrum

hands waving in the airIndividuals’ experiences as group members can dramatically impact their interpretations and expectations of experiences with members of other groups. To explore the science behind this, Association for Psychological Science President Jennifer L. Eberhardt interviewed Linda R. Tropp, a professor of social psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies how group differences in status affect cross-group relations.

Tropp has also worked with national organizations on initiatives to promote racial integration and equity, as well as with nongovernmental organizations to evaluate interventions designed to bridge group differences. The two began by discussing Tropp’s formative childhood in Gary, Indiana, an industrial city in the American Midwest that was a major site of Black migration in the mid-20th century, followed by significant  “White flight” starting in the 1960s. “My family just happened to be one of those who stayed,” she told Eberhardt, a fact that helped foster her interest in social justice issues, particularly related to race and ethnic justice. 

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