Psychological antecedents of social distance. What leads to contact avoidance?

Michał Bilewicz


Social distance has been extensively studied since almost 90 years, when seminal works of Emory Bogardus (1925; 1928) were published. This article reviews current research about psychological antecedents of social distance, understood as avoidance of contact with outgroup members. The conceptual model of psychological antecedents of social distance includes personality/individual difference factors eliciting social distance (e.g. right wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation), as well as specific forms of social identity (collective narcissism) and collective moral emotions (guilt). Among situational antecedents of social distance the exposure to hate speech and violent media communication are discussed. On the contrary, there are also dispositional and situational factors reducing social distance. Among them there are also other forms of social identity (genuine social identification), moral emotions (regret), contact experience (historical and contemporary), as well as representations of the past (historical moral exemplars). The presented research suggests that in order to understand people’s proneness to engage in intergroup contact, one has to take into account both internal (dispositional) and external (situational) psychological factors.


social distance, prejudice, stereotyping, intergroup contact, moral examplars

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