We propose a communication analogue to Allport's (1954) Contact Hypothesis called the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis (PCH). If people process mass-mediated parasocial interaction in a manner similar to interpersonal interaction, then the socially beneficial functions of intergroup contact may result from parasocial contact. We describe and test the PCH with respect to majority group members' level of prejudice in three studies, two involving parasocial contact with gay men (Six Feet Under and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and one involving parasocial contact with comedian and male transvestite Eddie Izzard. In all three studies, parasocial contact was associated with lower levels of prejudice. Moreover, tests of the underlying mechanisms of PCH were generally supported, suggesting that parasocial contact facilitates positive parasocial responses and changes in beliefs about the attributes of minority group categories.
- Contact Hypothesis
- Television Studies