Refugees at the gates. Vicarious contact and collective action for a disadvantaged group

Paulina Górska, Urszula Karaś, Anna Stefaniak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past studies demonstrated that vicarious contact (i.e., observing interactions between ingroup and outgroup representatives) affects outgroup-directed attitudes. This research sought to examine whether and, if so, how negative and positive vicarious contact with refugees influence host society’s members' collective action for this disadvantaged group. Two online experiments (total N = 1328) were conducted in the context of the Poland-Belarus border crisis. Participants watched a short video clip presenting an interaction between ingroup representatives (i.e., Poles) and refugees from the Middle East or Africa trying to enter Poland via Belarus. The valence of the interaction differed between experimental conditions. Both studies showed that negative vicarious contact increased participants’ levels of intergroup anxiety, which then predicted lower collective action for refugees. On the other hand, positive vicarious contact decreased intergroup anxiety as well as increased outgroup-directed empathy and collective action in Study 1 but not in Study 2. The results support the notion that negative representations of ingroup-outgroup interactions in the traditional and social media affect host societies’ members attitudes toward refugees and their willingness to engage for this group.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101808
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Early online date1 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Vicarious contact
  • Collective action
  • Intergroup anxiety
  • Empathy
  • Refugees


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