Virtual contact hypothesis: Preliminary evidence for intergroup contact hypothesis in interactions with characters in video games

Vol. 15No. 4 (2021)


This paper examines intergroup contact hypothesis in interactions in video games to conceptualize how intergroup contact with characters in games may relate to attitudes toward minorities. Intergroup contact hypothesis states that intergroup contact leads to more positive attitudes and stereotype reduction. It also specifies situational factors that promote or hinder such an outcome. In an online survey a sample of 1627 gamers stated games they played the most and filled out a questionnaire measuring their attitudes toward minorities. Independent judges assessed games that were played by most participants (N = 44 games). A multilevel regression analysis revealed that average quality of contact with minorities in a game (measured at game-level, as a characteristic of a game) was associated with higher acceptance of minorities of the players (measured at individual level). Diversity of the game world generated by fictional races had no significant connection to attitudes. Game-level predictors largely increased fit to the data showing that game worlds were significant for the acceptance of minorities. The results supply preliminary evidence for the validity of the intergroup contact hypothesis for the interactions with characters in video games.

Video games, prejudice, diversity, attitudes, intergroup contact, virtual contact

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