Combatting Anti-Indigenous Prejudice Through Imagined Contact: A Mixed-Methods Investigation
Anti-Indigenous prejudice is a pervasive, enduring phenomenon in Canada, drawing on a heavily-entrenched legacy of colonialism. To date, no social psychological studies have examined techniques that could reduce this prejudice and its correlates in a Canadian context. To address this gap, an experimental study drawing on the imagined contact hypothesis was conducted. Participants (N = 307) were randomly assigned to imagine a positive interaction with a stranger of an unspecified or Indigenous ethnic background. They then described the imagined interaction in writing, and completed questionnaires measuring modern and old-fashioned prejudice, intergroup anxiety, perceptions of outgroup variability, and their support for an Indigenous-related petition. Participants also had an opportunity to sign this ostensibly real petition, providing a more behavioural measure of their support for this cause. These measures were filled out for a second time at a four-week follow-up (n = 212). Results showed that the imagined contact intervention had no effect on participants’ attitudes, emotion, or behaviour at either Time 1 or Time 2. That is, participants who imagined a positive interaction with an Indigenous person, as compared to a person of an unspecified racial background, evinced the same levels of prejudice, anxiety, and petition support. A thorough analysis of the qualitative data showed that participants in the Indigenous condition had significantly less positive interaction experiences than those in the control condition. Further analysis also produced two major themes: 1) Indigenous culture and identity, and 2) racism. The first theme encompassed discussion of a) traditions, b) the opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture, c) reserves, and d) intergroup tensions, while the second theme included a) participants making racist comments, b) their understandings of racism, and c) hardships faced by Indigenous people. Overall, imagined contact’s failure to reduce prejudice and other forms of negativity towards Indigenous people indicates that more tailored intervention strategies are needed in this particular context.
Anti-Indigenous prejudice, imagined intergroup contact
Master of Arts (M.A.)