We examine the ability of intergroup contact to ameliorate intergroup relationships in an entrepreneurial and developing world context. We provide a decision model of how an entrepreneur chooses to invest time to extend their professional network. The model accommodates two distinct channels and generates alternative predictions based on which is activated by intergroup contact. One is the knowledge of the necessary time investment to forge a network connection with a member of another group, and the second is the preference-driven disutility of that time spent with that individual. We employ randomized experiments to test whether actual and imagined contact effectively reduces prejudice between indigenous Malawian shopkeepers and their Chinese migrant counterparts and test the stability of these changes over time. Actual contact produced differing results. Local Malawians’ attitude toward Chinese migrants did not improve, but their willingness to spend time with them did. In contrast, actual contact led to improvement in the Chinese migrants’ attitude toward local Malawians but did not increase their willingness to spend time with them. Imagined contact had no impact on Malawians’ attitude toward or willingness to spend time with Chinese migrants. These results are consistent with contact activating informational channels more so than preference ones.
Gu, J., Shachat, J., Mueller, A., Smyth, R., & Nielsen, I. (2019). Improving intergroup relations through actual and imagined contact: field experiments with Malawian shopkeepers and Chinese migrants. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 68(1), 273-303. https://doi.org/10.1086/700569