Writing Assignment 1: Contact Hypothesis Instructions and Grading Rubric
Goal: To truly study diversity, one must experience diversity. Coming into contact with diverse peoples and experiences is a necessary and healthful part of being an inhabitant of this planet and a member of society; however, sometimes, one must seek out particular experiences of diversity to gain perspective. The purpose of this experiential and writing exercise is to invite students to experience diversity and diverse peoples firsthand—to come in direct contact with them—and then to compose a reaction piece about the experience.
Background: Psychologist Gordon Allport proposed the Contact Hypothesis (or the Intergroup Contact Theory) in 1954, in which he posited that interpersonal contact—under the appropriate conditions—may effectively reduce prejudice, stereotypes, and conflict between majority and minority group members, thereby improving relations between the groups. The hypothesis is that having increased opportunities to communicate and interact with others helps an individual better understand and appreciate different points of view, lifestyles, belief structures, value systems, and so forth. That is, very simply, bringing different people together can help them get along better because they understand each other better. The landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, which resulted in the decision to desegregate United States public schools, is perhaps among the most famous immediate consequences of this influential theory.
Going Outside Comfort Zones as a First Step to Appreciating Diversity
With respect to appreciating diversity and making impactful changes, many individuals simply do not see a need for personal change: They feel comfortable, and making changes (even changes in their mind) actually take a lot of effort to challenge existing societal paradigms regarding individual and collective differences.
With this exercise, students are invited to take a small step outside their comfort zones to experience diverse peoples firsthand. Importantly, this exercise is not meant to objectify a person or group of people, as if they were subjects under a microscope or goldfish being watched in a fishbowl—instead, when students thoughtfully, willingly choose to spend time with different others, it becomes a meaningful, personal, shared experience. This represents our class’s small contribution to the Contact Hypothesis.
Coming into Contact with a Different Person or People
With this exercise, students will (a) interact with or (b) simulate an interaction with a person(s) with whom they have little or no experience. It will be your task to come into “contact” with this person or people, and the method, location, and people of contact are completely your choice.
Contact Hypothesis experience. Students are challenged and encouraged to actually undergo a lived-experience type of Contact Hypothesis by physically interacting with someone(s) in the real world. Examples of experiences past students have chosen include these:
IF A SIMULATED CONTACT HYPOTHESIS: How was the experience? Walk the reader through both the autobiographical (factual) and emotional (felt) aspects of the experience. Include the specific date(s) of your experience(s).
IF A PARASOCIAL CONTACT HYPOTHESIS: How was the experience? Name and briefly describe the plot/premise for each of the three movies/shows/documentaries you selected, and describe the emotional (felt) aspects of the experience. Include the specific date(s) of your experience(s).
Total Point: 100