The relationship between contact and attitudes: Reducing prejudice toward individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.Res Dev Disabil. 2015 Dec; 47:14-26.RD
Increases in intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) diagnoses coupled with higher rates of inclusion in school and community settings, has created more opportunities for exposure and integration between those with IDD and the mainstream population. Previous research has found that increased contact can lead to more positive attitudes toward those with IDD. The current study further investigated this impact of contact on attitudes by examining the influence of the quality and quantity of contact on both explicit and implicit levels of prejudice, while also considering potential mediation via intergroup anxiety and implicit attitudes. Based on past research and theory, we predicted that contact (especially quality contact) would have a strong relationship with explicit and implicit positive attitudes toward individuals with IDD. In the present study, 550 people completed a survey and short task that measured their level of contact with individuals with IDD across their lifetime, their current attitudes toward these individuals, and other constructs that are thought to influence this relationship. Multiple regression analyses suggested consistent links between higher quality of contact and lower levels of prejudice toward individuals with IDD at both the explicit and implicit levels. After controlling for quality of contact, higher quantity of contact was either not significantly associated with our measures of prejudice or was, importantly, associated with higher levels of prejudice. Additional analyses support intergroup anxiety and implicit positive attitudes as significant mediators in the associations between quality of contact and the various dimensions of explicit prejudice. Thus, it would seem that it is the quality of interpersonal interactions that is most strongly related to positive attitudes toward individuals with IDD, making it crucial to take care when developing inclusion opportunities in community settings.