A little similarity goes a long way: The effects of peripheral but self-revealing similarities on improving and sustaining interracial relationships

Tessa V. West, Joe C. Magee, Lindy Gullett, Sarah H. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Integrating theory on close relationships and intergroup relations, we construct a manipulation of similarity that we demonstrate can improve interracial interactions across different settings. We find that manipulating perceptions of similarity on self-revealing attributes that are peripheral to the interaction improves interactions in cross-race dyads and racially diverse task groups. In a getting-acquainted context, we demonstrate that the belief that one's different-race partner is similar to oneself on self-revealing, peripheral attributes leads to less anticipatory anxiety than the belief that one's partner is similar on peripheral, nonself-revealing attributes. In another dyadic context, we explore the range of benefits that perceptions of peripheral, self-revealing similarity can bring to different-race interaction partners and find (a) less anxiety during interaction, (b) greater interest in sustained contact with one's partner, and (c) stronger accuracy in perceptions of one's partners' relationship intentions. By contrast, participants in same-race interactions were largely unaffected by these manipulations of perceived similarity. Our final experiment shows that among small task groups composed of racially diverse individuals, those whose members perceive peripheral, self-revealing similarity perform superior to those who perceive dissimilarity. Implications for using this approach to improve interracial interactions across different goal-driven contexts are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-100
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume107
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Groups and teams
  • Intergroup anxiety
  • Interracial interaction
  • Similarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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