American Sociological Association

Understanding the Selection Bias: Social Network Processes and the Effect of Prejudice on the Avoidance of Outgroup Friends

Research has found that prejudiced people avoid friendships with members of ethnic outgroups. Results of this study suggest that this effect is mediated by a social network process. Longitudinal network analysis of a three-wave panel study of 12- to 13-year-olds (N = 453) found that more prejudiced majority group members formed fewer intergroup friendships than less prejudiced majority group members. This was caused indirectly by the preference to become friends of one’s friends’ friends (triadic closure). More prejudiced majority members did not have a preference for actively avoiding minority group members. Rather, they had the tendency to avoid friends who already had minority group friends and thus could not be introduced to potential minority group friends. Instead they became friends with the majority group friends of their friends. This research shows how a social networks perspective can further our understanding of the processes underlying intergroup contact.

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Tobias H. Stark





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