Supportive Contact and LGBT Collective Action: The Moderating Role of Membership in Specific Groups

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A growing body of literature suggests that positive cross-group contact between members of advantaged and disadvantaged groups can undermine disadvantaged group members’ collective action engagement. It has also been proposed that supportive contact (i.e., positive contact with advantaged group members who express explicit support for social change) may be a special form of contact that might increase, rather than reduce collective action engagement among disadvantaged group members. In the present research, we tested this proposition by asking Gay (N = 96) and Lesbian (N = 100) Australians to recall a previous positive interaction with a heterosexual friend who was either very supportive or somewhat supportive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) rights (i.e., equal marriage, adoption, and surrogacy rights). Results revealed that the effect of supportive contact on collective action intentions depended on the participants’ specific disadvantaged group membership. For Gay men, those who recalled supportive contact reported greater collective action intentions. The opposite pattern emerged for Lesbian women. These findings suggest that supportive contact has the power to enhance or undermine collective action intentions among the disadvantaged. Which of these occurs appears to depend on the specific disadvantaged group to which one belongs. The psychological underpinnings of these effects, the theoretical implications, and future research directions are discussed.

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