Research

My work builds on Allport's (1954) famous contact theory, which states that personal contact between members of different groups will generally improve their attitudes towards each other's group. Taking a social-psychological perspective, my focus is on the processes underlying the contact-attitude link. Being a sociologist at heart, I'm particularly interested in the questions whether, and if so, how the social network, in which contact takes place, affects people's attitudes about other groups.

I investigate the processes that take place within ethnically diverse and ethnically segregated school classes to explain interethnic attitudes/prejudice and ethnic segregation. I'm also interested in the origin and consequences of prejudice among adults. My current work focuses on four related research areas: (1) how to measure racial/ethnic prejudice, (2) understanding how social networks affect the development of prejudice and vice versa, (3) understanding how prejudice spread through social networks, and (4) developing programs to reduce prejudice among school children.

More details on my research areas
(1) How to measure racial/ethnic prejudice?
In a series of papers together with experts at Stanford University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago, I study the most effective way to measure negative attitudes toward other racial/ethnic groups. We also try to adjust and improve existing prejudice scales.

(2) How do social network affect prejudice and vice versa?
Research based on Allport's contact theory has well establish that having more friends from other racial groups lead to less prejudice. This research has so far overlooked that friendships are not independent from each other but are part of social networks. I study how the structure of these networks affects the contact-prejudice link.

(3) How do prejudices spread through social networks?
I recently received a Veni-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to study the spread of prejudice in networks.

(4) Develop programs to reduce prejudice in schools.
I work together with social psychologists and social workers to evaluate an existing intervention program that brings children from ethnically segregated school classes into contact with each other. The goal is to develop a more cost-efficient intervention that promotes positive inter-cultural attitudes in ethnically segregated schools.

 

My collaborators outside of ERCOMER are
  • Jon Krosnick (Stanford University)
  • Dan McFarland (Stanford University)
  • Josh Pasek (University of Michigian)
  • Keith Payne (University of North Carolina)
  • Trevor Tompson (University of Chicago)
  • Andreas Flache (University of Gronignen)
  • Michael Mäs (ETH Zurich)
  • Lars Leszczensky (University of Mannheim)
  • Henning Silber (University of Göttingen)
  • Annelies Blom (University of Mannheim)
  • Volker Stocké (University of Kassel)
  • Sharon Polack (Stichting WIMW)
  • Anke Munniksma (University of Amsterdam)