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Yair Amichai-Hamburger and Shir Etgar

People tend to divide the world into categories. One of them is the group of people I belong to (the ingroup) and the group I do not belong to (the outgroup). People have a tendency to stereotype the outgroup and behave toward it with prejudice and discrimination. In many cases these forms of behavior lead to intergroup conflict. One of the major proposals for resolving this situation was suggested by Gordon W. Allport and is called the Contact Hypothesis. According to this model, when a contact between the groups is held under certain conditions—equal status, institutional support, and cooperation between the rival groups toward the achievement of superordinate goals—people are likely to change their negative perception of the outgroup and improve their relationship with its members. Despite the success of the model, it has been shown to suffer from three major obstacles. First, it is logistically complicated to achieve the requisite conditions; secondly, the physical proximity to the rival group’s members is likely to cause high anxiety among participants, which may well prevent any positive change; thirdly, the contact, even if successful, is unlikely to be generalized to the groups as a whole. Online intergroup contact appears to overcome these challenges.