Proximity under threat: The role of physical distance in intergroup relations

Y. Jenny Xiao, Michael J A Wohl, Jay Van Bavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Throughout human history, social groups have invested immense amounts of wealth and time to keep threatening out-groups at a distance. In the current research, we explored the relationship between intergroup threat, physical distance, and discrimination. Specifically, we examined how intergroup threat alters estimates of physical distance to out-groups and how physical proximity affects intergroup relations. Previous research has found that people judge threatening out-groups as physically close. In Studies 1 and 2, we examined ways to attenuate this bias. In Study 1 a secure (vs. permeable) US-Mexico border reduced the estimated proximity to Mexico City among Americans who felt threatened by Mexican immigration. In Study 2, intergroup apologies reduced estimates of physical proximity to a threatening cross-town rival university, but only among participants with cross-group friendships. In Study 3, New York Yankees fans who received an experimental induction of physical proximity to a threatening out-group (Boston Red Sox) had a stronger relationship between their collective identification with the New York Yankees and support for discriminatory policies toward members of the out-group (Red Sox fans) as well as how far they chose to sit from out-group members (Red Sox fans). Together, these studies suggest that intergroup threat alters judgment of physical properties, which has important implications for intergroup relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0159792
JournalPLoS One
Volume11
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

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Mexico
Fans
interpersonal relationships
Emigration and Immigration
Research
immigration
towns
physical properties
History
history
Physical properties
Discrimination (Psychology)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Proximity under threat : The role of physical distance in intergroup relations. / Xiao, Y. Jenny; Wohl, Michael J A; Van Bavel, Jay.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 11, No. 7, e0159792, 01.07.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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