Context and Contact: Unifying the Study of Environmental Effects on Politics

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A growing literature explores how local environments, or contexts, affect political behavior, especially by shaping interpersonal contact with social out-groups. While many studies still draw directly on long-standing hypotheses from contact theory, this research agenda increasingly focuses on new research questions, beyond the classic social psychology literature, and new empirical cases, including from across the lower- and middle-income world. We develop a typology of forms of context and contact to aid the aggregation of findings across disparate cases and demonstrate that the mechanisms that may account for the political effects of intergroup context and contact are broader than those typically explored in psychologically oriented research. We propose future directions for research in this area, including greater focus on the intersection of ethnic and class-based contact and greater attention to how built or computer-based environments may mediate or mirror the effects of demographic contexts.




Nathan, N. L., & Sands, M. L. (2023, June 15). Context and Contact: Unifying the Study of Environmental Effects on Politics. Annual Review of Political Science. Annual Reviews Inc.

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