Roommates Interracial Relationships: Satisfying?
by msalah on November 15, 2016 - 3:13pm
In the article "Interracial Roommate Relationships: An Experimental Field Test of the Contact Hypothesis”, Russell H. Fazio and Natalie J. Shook (2008) study investigated the affect of long-term interracial relationships of dormitory roommates on naturally triggered racial attitudes. The researchers’ hypothesis on the subject is that intolerance, prejudice as well as a lack of exposure to other minorities or groups are the roots of ignorance. Hence, they believe that expanding one’s interracial interactions could potentially decrease his/her prejudice and hostility towards other races, in this case, African American. For this study, the participants were 136 White and 126 African American college freshman who were randomly assigned to either interracial rooms, or same-race rooms. While previous studies on the subject used self-report measures to collect their results, which often led participants to control their reactions as a mean to not be considered ignorant or prejudiced, this study used a cover story, a research on college life adjustment, so that the participant’s reactions would be more natural. To compensate with their implication in the project, the participants would either receive an amount of money during each session ($25 in total), or credits for research experience in college. Two experimental sessions were conducted during the two last weeks and the two first weeks of their college quarter. Each session had a five phases procedure, where participants were presented numerous faces, with differing genders and ethnicities, and had to describe what they saw as either positive or negative as well as recalling which faces they remembered. These methods were mainly meant to support the cover story by testing the student’s multitasking abilities. However, to conduct the real experiment, the authors observed numerous dependant variables, to see if the independent variables, being the interracial and same-race roommates, in fact affected them. The duration of the study, the time roommates would spend together, the comfort and cooperation between them, potential intergroup anxiety, as well as the involvement in each other lives, were all factors used to test the overall relationships between interracial or same-race roommates. By gathering the results of their study, the authors found that the relationships between interracial roommates were less satisfactory and had less of a pleasant and comfortable overall climate than same-race roommate relationships. However, the researchers also found some changes that occurred over time between interracial roommates, such as an improvement in each other friend’s circle integration, an increase in the time spent in the dorm, a decrease in anxiety caused by intergroup, as well as an attitude change caused by more exposure and interaction opportunities with African American, which confirmed their hypothesis. Also, during the experiment sessions, no difference between same-race and interracial roommates concerning naturally activated racial attitudes were observed during the first session, however, a positive attitudes towards other races, in interracial dorms, was found, as well as a reduction in prejudice. In the article discussion, the authors stated the numerous advantage of this experiment, such as the fact that roommates were randomly assigned to each other, the extended and long-term period, the setting of the study, which led to a more truthful and natural assessment of consequences, compared to usual research in laboratories. Also, the fact that this study measured the participant’s attitudes implicitly rather than explicitly reduced potential motivational factors. Finally, the researchers believed that the conduction of a similar study, which would evaluate the effects of interracial relationships on African American, could allow the comparison of White and African American perceptions of interracial relationships.
I personally found this study pretty interesting for various reasons. First of all, it took into consideration numerous variables to measure the results; from the comfort and the interaction between the roommates, to the duration of the study; these factors had a direct impact on the overall satisfaction of the relationship between roommates. Thus, the fact that the researchers took into consideration all of these factors makes the conclusion more plausible. Also, in these types of study, it is quite possible that many of the participants tries to manipulate their results and not state how they truly feel or think about a racial study, to not be represented as discriminatory towards other races or simply racist. Hence, the fact that these researchers used a cover story makes the results more natural and authentic since they are not altered by any motivational factors. Furthermore, as stated in the “discussion” section of the articles, the researchers believed that doing the same study using the African-American student’s point of view could be interesting. I totally agree with a future study involving African-American student’s results, since it would allow an efficient comparison of each races satisfaction level toward interracial and same-race roommates relationships, which was the missing piece of this study. As we saw in class, the concept of racism is a social construct; hence, this study shows how this construct still greatly affects social relationship nowadays, by influencing the overall satisfaction of dormitory roommates, depending simply of the colour of their skin. I do believe that the first factor of racism and prejudice towards other races is ignorance, hence, the hypothesis of the study made a lot of sense; expanding one’s exposure and interaction to other races could reduce discrimination and hopefully diminish the impact that the social construct of race has on today’s society.
Shook, N.J., Fazio, R.H. (2008). Interracial Roommate Relationships: An Experimental Field Test of the Contact Hypothesis. Psychological Science, 19(7), 717-723. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02147.x