Intergroup Contact in the Wild: Characterizing Language Differences between Intergroup and Single-group Members in NBA-related Discussion Forums

08/28/2019 ∙ by Jason Shuo Zhang, et al. ∙ 0

Intergroup contact has long been considered as an effective strategy to reduce prejudice between groups. However, recent studies suggest that exposure to opposing groups in online platforms can exacerbate polarization. To further understand the behavior of individuals who actively engage in intergroup contact in practice, we provide a large-scale observational study of intragroup behavioral differences between members with and without intergroup contact. We leverage the existing structure of NBA-related discussion forums on Reddit to study the context of professional sports. We identify fans of each NBA team as members of a group and trace whether they have intergroup contact. Our results show that members with intergroup contact use more negative and abusive language in their affiliated group than those without such contact, after controlling for activity levels. We further quantify different levels of intergroup contact and show that there may exist nonlinear mechanisms regarding how intergroup contact relates to intragroup behavior. Our findings provide complementary evidence to experimental studies in a novel context and also shed light on possible reasons for the different outcomes in prior studies.

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