The (Spatial) Ties that Bind: Frequent Casual Contact, the Shadow of the Future, and Prosociality Across Ethnic Divisions

Paige Bollen


What can spur prosocial behavior across ethnic divisions? A host of studies focus on the potential power of deep contact between group members. Bollen instead focuses on the capacity of casual contact. While most research finds that a higher volume of casual contact with outgroup members augments divisions between groups, she centers her analysis on the under-theorized effect of repeated casual contact with the same outgroup members. Bollen uses a survey experiment in Accra, Ghana to show that repeated casual contact can increase prosocial behavior towards non-coethnics because it shifts individuals’ expectations about sanctioning, reciprocity, and findability. By exploring the space between social embeddedness and social anonymity, these findings add consideration to the consequences of repeated casual contact in the inter-ethnic relations literature.