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Imagined intergroup contact describes a strategy for reducing prejudice based on the mental simulation of social interactions.[1] The approach was proposed by Crisp and Turner who hypothesized that mentally simulating a positive contact experience will create a mental contact ‘script’, alongside more positive feelings about outgroups, that will result in more favorable outgroup perceptions and enhanced intentions to engage in future contact. Crisp and Turner go on to suggest that while the potential attitude change associated with imagined contact may be of lesser magnitude compared to more direct (i.e., face to face) interventions, imagery approaches should elicit lower levels of anxiety and be easier to initiate. This research suggests that imagined contact may be an effective first step on the road to reduced prejudice, which can then be followed, gradually, by increasingly realistic interventions.

Instructional Set

Crisp and Turner outline two central components required of imagined contact, and the experimental instructions required.[1] These are as follows. First is the need to run through a mental script of an interaction (thinking, in contrast, of just an outgroup member in the absence of any simulated interaction has no positive effects on attitudes). Second is the positive tone of the interaction. The following experimental instruction captures these two key elements (1. simulation and 2. a positive tone): “We would like you to take a minute to imagine yourself meeting [an outgroup] stranger for the first time. Imagine that the interaction is positive, relaxed and comfortable.” In order to create a control instruction (akin to a positive interaction, but with no reference to groups), the following can be used: “We would like you to take a minute to imagine an outdoor scene. Try to imagine aspects of the scene (e.g., is it a beach, a forest, are there trees, hills, what’s on the horizon).” It is notable that the paradigm lends itself to the exploration of task variants that can have targeted impacts on specific outcome measures.[2]


A number of studies support the hypothesis that imagined contact can have a positive impact on intergroup perceptions. For instance, Turner, Crisp and Lambert (2007)[3] found that imagined contact with an outgroup member (in this case an older person or gay man) led to more positive outgroup evaluations. Turner and Crisp (2009)[4] found that imagined contact also improves implicit outgroup attitudes. Stathi and Crisp (2008)[5] showed that imagined contact encourages the projection of positive traits to ethnic and national outgroups. Husnu and Crisp (2010)[2] found that repeatedly imagining contact had a positive impact on intergroup perceptions in Cyprus. Imagined contact can also elicit secondary transfer effects, where positive attitudes developed towards one outgroup are seen to generalize to others (Harwood et al., 2010).[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Crisp, R. J., Turner, R. N. (2009). Can Imagined Interactions Promote Positive Perceptions? Reducing Prejudice Through Simulated Social Contact. American Psychologist 64 (4): 231–240.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Husnu, S., Crisp, R. J. (2010). Elaboration enhances the imagined contact effect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 (6): 943–950.
  3. Turner, R. N., Crisp, R. J., & Lambert, E. (2007). Imagining intergroup contact can improve intergroup attitudes. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 10 (4): 427–441.
  4. Turner, R. N., Crisp, R. J. (2010). Imagining intergroup contact reduces implicit prejudice. British Journal of Social Psychology 49 (Pt 1): 129–142.
  5. Stathi, S., Crisp, R. J. (2008). Imagining intergroup contact promotes projection to outgroups. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44 (4): 943–957.
  6. Harwood, J., Paolini, S., Joyce, N., Rubin, M., & Arroyo, A. (2011). Secondary transfer effects from imagined contact: Group similarity affects the generalization gradient. British Journal of Social Psychology 50: 180–189.

{{enWP|The Imagined Contact Hypothesis]]