Affective Forecasting: Implications for Outgroup Contact

Awarded Scholars:
Robyn Mallett, University of Virginia
Timothy D. Wilson, University of Virginia
Project Date:
Jun 2005
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Supplemental Appropriation: May 2006, $24,461


The prospect of meeting someone from another group can cause anxiety – no matter how the person is different from us. Not only might we fear hostility from another group’s members or feel prejudiced against them, but we may worry about our own ability to perform adequately in the interaction. As a result, people can become wary of interactions with those different from themselves and avoid such contact. This can lead to group segregation and missed opportunities for fruitful multicultural exchange.


To try to increase the likelihood of positive contact between groups, the Foundation has given an award to Robyn Mallett and Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virginia to investigate predictions about encounters with representatives of different social groups. While people often anticipate that they will feel negative emotions or behave inappropriately during upcoming interactions with members of an outgroup, the investigators claim that actual intergroup interactions often proceed more smoothly than expected. If people can learn to more accurately predict the nature of their encounters with people different from them, they will experience less stress and be more open to interactions with others. Concentrating on interactions between whites and African Americans, Mallett and Wilson will conduct a series of experiments in which a pair of subjects are asked to focus on either their similarities or their differences and then predict how amicable they would be while interacting. The investigators will then analyze how the forecasts and the focus on similarities affect the subjects’ subsequent interaction. Results of the research will be summarized in a review paper and presented at national conferences and in three articles, submitted to peer-reviewed psychology journals.


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