The effect of university roommate contact on ethnic attitudes and behavior

Colette Van Laar, Shana Levin, Stacey Sinclair, Jim Sidanius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


This study examined the effect of living with White, Asian American, Latino, or African American roommates on affective, cognitive, and behavioral indicators of prejudice among university students. We used a five-wave panel study with approximately 2000 students to examine the effect of roommate contact in two ways: First, through a field experimental test by examining prejudice as a function of living with randomly assigned roommates during the first year of university. Second, net of pre-existing attitudes, we examined the effects of voluntary roommate contact during the second and third year of university on fourth year prejudice. Consistent with contact theory, both randomly assigned and voluntary contact decreased prejudice. Also, there was generalization to other outgroups, particularly from Black roommates to Latinos, and vice versa. Finally, an interesting exception was found for contact with Asian American roommates, whether randomly assigned or voluntary, which tended to make attitudes towards other groups more negative. Potential explanations for this result are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-345
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Contact theory
  • Ethnic attitudes and behaviors
  • Intergroup contact
  • Longitudinal study
  • Prejudice
  • Roommates
  • University students


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