The Imagined Contact Hypothesis: The Role of Working Memory Capacity
Keywords:imagined contact hypothesis, working memory, outgroup members, positive tonality
AbstractAccording to the Imagined Contact Hypothesis, mental visualization of positive intergroup contact is sufficient to reduce the prejudice toward outgroup members. The role of working memory capacity in the imagined contact effect was investigated in our study. Two studies were conducted. The first, quasi-experimental study showed that participants with lower working memory capacity have more negative descriptions of the imagined intergroup contact and more negative attitudes towards outgroup members when compared to participants with higher working memory capacity. The second, experimental, study extended the results from the first study and showed that experimentally reducing working memory capacity leads to more negative descriptions of the imagined contact and more negative attitudes towards outgroup members. Mediation analysis confirmed the hypothesis that (un)ability to maintain positive tonality of imagined contact is a mechanism which causes success of imagined contact on negative attitude reduction. Results from both studies are consistent with our hypothesis that working memory capacity is one of the factors which influences the efficacy of the imagined intergroup contact intervention. The results obtained in our study open new question about the efficiency of imagined contact in attitude change.