The Big 5 Ep 14_Jenny Paterson_mixdown
2:58PM Mar 17, 2022
Hello and welcome to the Big Five podcasts from Northumbria psychology department. My name is Dr. Genavee Brown and I'll be your guide into the minds of psychology students, alumni and researchers at Northumbria University. I'm a lecturer and a social psychology researcher in the psychology department. Each week on this podcast, I'll speak to a guest who is either a student, alumni or researcher in the Northumbria psychology department. By asking them five big questions, we'll learn about their time studying psychology, and hopefully learn some big facts about human behavior and experience. Today, I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Jenny Patterson. Hi, Jenny.
Hi, again, thanks for having me.
Jenny is a senior lecturer in the psychology department and a social psychologist who studies how different groups interact and the impacts of prejudice. Jenny, can you tell us a little bit about why you started studying intergroup interactions and prejudice? And what are some of the theories behind your work?
That's a good question, Gen. I really, my research focus specifically looks at interracial romantic relationships and the project prejudice towards them. And I got into that, basically, because I was fascinated by interpersonal dynamics, how people communicate with one another, respond to one another. And I'm also really interested in intergroup relations, and that specifically looks at prejudice. So I just basically combined the two, to look at prejudice towards interracial romantic relationships. So some of the theories that I regularly use, really sent around intergroup contact theory, which was devised by Allport in 1954. And it seems like a very simplistic theory, it suggests that when members of different groups, social groups, so that could be racial groups, ethnic groups, religious groups, whatever groups you want. And when they interact with one another, it tends to reduce prejudice towards one another. Obviously, there's conditions to this, it can't be entirely negative contact, it has to be somewhat positive, to have a positive reduce effects and reductions in prejudice. So in my work with our colleagues, we look at how contact or simply knowing an interracial relationship can reduce prejudice, you
say that you you study people who have had contact with inter racial relationships? Can you tell us a little bit about the methodologies of those studies? And how exactly you get at this research
question? Yeah, of course. And so we can conceptualize it in many different ways. So during some of my studies, we've looked at what we call extended contact. And that is actually when somebody knows somebody in a relationship with an out group member. So to do this, we simply employ survey techniques, we ask people, do you know somebody who identifies as same race as you who is in a relationship with somebody from a different race. And then we will basically use statistical techniques to see how that contact that is correlated with other factors, like reduction in prejudice or affect towards for the people from different races, but we also can conceptualize it through the media. So we can look at mediated contact. So for example, we can look at how, if you know somebody who's in an interracial romantic relationship, we can see whether you've seen such a couple on the TV or in the media or wherever, and see if that also reduces prejudice. And again, we can use a survey correlational data, but we can also look at longitudinally. So that's when we look at different time points, so that we can have a better understanding of, if somebody has contact at a time one, does that then help change their attitudes further down, down the line and in time, and then we also the ones that I particularly like, because it's gets more to the causal effect of things, is looking at using experimental methods. And that's where we look, we we can show participants, you know, an in group member who's either dating and following group member or an out group member, and seeing how they respond to them. So do they think that they're compatible? And we can compare those attitudes towards those people? And then we can also link these to their actual, like larger out group attitudes, specifically looking at prejudice? Do they like out group members? Would they go on a date with an out group member? So those are the techniques? It's,
yeah, those are some great techniques, very typical social psychology studies, but excellent to educate our listeners about those. As we are both social psychologist, I know that you've done a very interesting study on a very specific interracial couple. Would you like Tell us a little bit about that study and any interesting findings about your Harry and Meghan
research. Yeah, of course, as you allude to, I've done three, quite large studies looking at attitudes towards Prince Harry and Megan, as they were formally known, and now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And what we've done is, obviously, my research really centers around this attitudes towards international romantic relationships. And this was a very big prime example of such a couple. So me and my collaborators, Professor Turner, and Professor Houghton, we have managed to look at people's reactions to the couple, both at the wedding when they had their son, Archie. And then also, during what people, the media outlets called Meghxit when they decided to step back from royal duties, we were able to look at how people's attitudes towards that couple are translated to their intergroup attitudes and prejudice more generally. So some of the interesting things, the negative, surprising thing is that people still have reservations about intergroup romantic relationships. Now, if he saw the media narrative around some of the things surrounding the wedding, and especially around Archie and their child, they were talking about the race. And it was I, obviously, as a researcher, I know that the prejudice is there. But to see so blatantly put onto the news was was quite astounding. And you know, in the 21st century, that was that it's still an issue. But the good and surprise, well, hopefully not too surprising, because the theory suggests this. But the good part of this is what we found throughout the studies was that people who saw Harry and Megan's relationship, if they thought other people approved of it, it sort of the norms or social norms surrounding that relationship that actually led longitudinally to better intergroup attitudes. So for example, we studied white British participants, we got them to reply to a survey about what they thought about Harry and Megan at the time of the wedding, and then we looked at it one month later, and what we could do, you know, statistically controlling certain factors, we did find that that contact with the interracial couple was correlated with better attitudes towards black people and towards mixed race people. So what we're trying to argue is that, although romantic interest romantic relationships, demonized sometimes in the media, and stigmatized, definitely, they the power to actually improve those prejudicial attitudes. So that was pretty neat finding that we're, we were very happy to see. So not only from a theoretical point of view, but also a society as well. Yeah,
that's really fascinating. I, I'm curious, because I know intergroup theory, contact theory states that the interaction needs to be a positive one. So did you see anything different after Meghxit? Because there was there was such a scandal when Harry and Megan decided that they wanted to kind of step back from the royal family, and have a little distance from that kind of life. How did people respond to that? Was it was that seen as a negative event that then kind of poisoned the waters of that intergroup contact? Or were people still accepting of that? And was that being presented in the media still a positive thing for to produce people's prejudice?
That's a great question. Genavee. Well, yeah, great. Well, what we found was that makes it although it was a quite unwell, especially in relatively negative commentary around it, because the contact, so when we conceptualize contact is between Harry and Megan, rather than the participant, and the person because obviously, they don't know them. So it was still looking at an in group member with an out group member, and that remained positive. So generally, what we found was the attitudes still had that positive. I mean, the contact still had that positive effect on attitudes. However, what was really interesting, we also included a new measure, in which we asked participants to what extent do you think Meghan has tainted the royal family? And we use the word tainted? Because we've looked at some of the, the social psychology literature around biracial people and having children and without group members and what the racist remarks often is about all well, they're not entirely white now, or they're not entirely black now. So they've tainted this ingroup idea. See. And what we found is actually when we use that variable within the Meghxit study, we did find that canceled the positive contact out. So I do very much thing because you say when it's negative contact or a negative narrative surrounding that contact, that can diminish these positive aspects of contact. So it's really important to understand the context because it's not always going to lead to positive reactions.
Yeah, that's really interesting. This also makes me think of it, I want to ask you about the impact of your work. But I was thinking about how seeing this couple in the media has has hopefully reduce some prejudice towards biracial couples? Do you think that we could extend this idea to the idea of representation in in fictional media as well? Do you think that is an important area where, you know, creators could could think about hoping to reduce prejudice by presenting biracial couples? In media? Yes, definitely.
Obviously, there's, as we thought, the, the presentation of the couples will be interesting, because if you, you know, have a couple, especially a fictional couple, if you have them being too positive, it's not believable. But then again, you don't want them really negative, and they have a horrible, horrific breakup, because that might have, you know, negative effects on attitudes. However, I very much agree where I think there should be more representation. So you know, it again, it gets to the fundamentals of intergroup contact theory. If you see it, if you see something positive, you're it reduces your anxiety about that contact for yourself. And that makes you more accepting of others and accepting unwillingness to engage with people from different groups. So that could be interracial romantic relationships, or it could be any type of relationship. So I definitely think there's, there's an aspect where media can definitely have a positive influence. And this has been shown in other realms. You know, if you look at mediated intergroup contact with male gay couples, I think there was a good study about the representation of women grace, and that actually helped to reduce prejudice towards gay men, just by simply watching it even though it was probably a broadly stereotypical comedic presentation of it, it did help to reduce prejudice. So I definitely think it could be rolled out to to a wide variety of relationships.
Wow, that's really interesting. Thank you, is there any other impact from your research that you think is really important for our listeners to hear about?
That's a difficult one for because this is quite a nascent literature. So it's just, you know, it's just starting to get going, because intergroup contact theory has been around for decades, and it's had really good impact in for example, it was one of the reasons why schools in the south in the south of the US would be segregated. But its application to romantic relationships is only quite new. So the impact is still being seen. I hope just by talking about it, it brings people's attention to angle I actually, I didn't think about that, or what are my attitudes? Shouldn't should they be challenged or not? So hopefully, for those in couples, and those who are supporting them, it's just being aware of the issues and the marginalization that these couples encounter, and hopefully reducing the prejudice towards them.
Yeah, definitely. That's an excellent goal of this research. I think a lot of people may have been made aware, especially with the the Harry and Megan, the way they were treated in the media. I think a lot of people probably identified with that, who had struggled with with that prejudice before. I guess, since it's a nascent literature. Where would you recommend that researchers go from here? Do you have any ideas of what studies you might be interested in doing in the future? Or any kind of questions that you think still need to be teased apart?
I think I think there's a vast amount of questions to be to be answered. I mean, my mind is only looking at a very, you know, a minute proportion of what could be looked at. So this, you know, the, for example, the Harry and Megan study, naturally looked at a white male with a biracial female, but that's, that's just one type so that I feel like a good avenue for research is exploring the intersectionality of it, you know, is it going to be different if the, if it was a white woman with a biracial man, would that would that be different and there is some research to suggest that but also, we're looking at just a heterosexual relationship, you know, how, how does that translate into other types of relationships? And again, looking at the culture kind of side of things, is it going to be different in, in Britain, where we did our research to save in the States or anywhere in the world? You know, what are the differences there? And I think, you know, because again, it's quite new, but it's, it's based on a long existing literature. In the general intergroup contact literature, I think we can also draw from that to understand better, where the prejudice arises, you know, why are we so bothered about this sort of people's relationships? And if they're, you know, loving and supportive, why why should there be this prejudice towards it? So getting into the more of the, why does it happen, because I think that's really important, because we want to know why it happens. So then we can actually kind of stop it or prevent it from occurring. And I think that's really interesting. So a lot of my research, I try to not just bring up the problems, you know, why did this happen? But try and bring out solutions. So can intergroup contact with even me media figures? Can this reduce prejudice? And I think that's what I'd like to see. So understanding the antecedents of why do these couples experienced prejudice? And then also, how can we stop this prejudice? Or if this prejudice is gonna happen? How can we strengthen those relationships, despite this, these obstacles that they face?
Yeah, that's really fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your research with us. Where can people find you online if they'd like to continue following your intergroup contact studies?
So I'm on Twitter and my handle is at Dr. Jenny Paterson just with one T. I'm not greedy. And then also you can find me on Northumbria University stuff pages on there as well.
Alright, well, thank you again, Jenny, for talking to us about this. Very interesting study. listeners. If you'd like to learn more about Northumbria psychology, check out our psychology department blog at Northumbria p s y.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at Northumbria psi. If you want to stay updated on episodes you can follow me on Twitter at BrownGENAVEE. If you'd like to be interviewed on the podcast or know someone who would please email me at Genavee Brown at Northumbria ac.uk. Finally, if you liked the podcast, make sure to subscribe to our podcast on your listening app and give us a review and rating. I hope you've learned something on this voyage into the mind. Take care until next time