Rebecca J. Wolfe, Christopher Grady, Danjuma Dawop, and Lisa Inks

How contact can promote societal change amid conflict: An intergroup contact field experiment in Nigeria

Abstract: Intergroup contact, originally designed as a tool for prejudice reduction, offers a promising means to resolve intergroup conflict. Evidence for contact-based interventions to improve intergroup relations is sparse, however, with most studies focusing only on the individuals who directly engage in contact. We test the ability of a contact-based intervention to promote peace between conflicting groups with a field experiment in Nigeria, where farmer and pastoralist communities are embroiled in a deadly conflict over land use. We examine the effectiveness of the contact intervention on the wider population—not just those directly engaged in contact—using surveys, direct observation of behavior in markets and social events, and a behavioral game. We find those who lived in the communities that received the intervention had more positive intergroup attitudes and feelings of physical security, as well as were more likely to engage in voluntary intergroup contact measured through self-reports and observed behavior in markets. Exploratory analyses show that those who directly participated in the program and those who were exposed to it by living in the communities where activities were taking place changed similarly with regard to attitudes and perceptions of security, but not with regard to behaviors, indicating the spread to the wider community was likely due to norm change. These results suggest that contact interventions can have wider societal change and reduce the barriers to peace between conflicting groups.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

The University of Chicago