We present five studies conducted with non-disabled schoolchildren, showing that an active and preventive approach can be effective in promoting social inclusion. We relied on indirect intergroup contact strategies, and specifically on vicarious contact (observing an interaction between ingroup and outgroup members) and imagined contact (mentally simulating a positive intergroup interaction). In Study I (N = 81), 4 to 6 years old children were asked to imagine a positive interaction with a child in a wheelchair while drawing it. Results obtained by contrasting the experimental with a control condition revealed effects on a behavioral measure of resource allocation and intentions to be friends with children with disabilities. The effect was mediated by improved outgroup attitudes. In Study II (N = 292), 6 to 9 years old children were presented with a story or a comparable video depicting positive interactions between a child in a wheelchair and his non-disabled peers. Compared with a control condition, children reading the story or watching the video revealed more positive intentions to become friends with children with disabilities. In this case, the effect was mediated by inclusion of the other in the self, ingroup norms, empathy. In Study III, we adopted a pre-post experimental design with children (N = 142) with an average age of approximately 10 years. Results revealed that, compared to a control condition, outgroup attitudes, stereotypes and feelings about peers with disability, and intentions to engage in contact with them, were more positive in a condition that combined imagined contact (behavioral approach) with an information intervention (cognitive approach), rather than when imagined contact or the information intervention were delivered separately. Effects were assessed two weeks after the intervention, and were consistent across types of disability (intellectual disability, hearing disability, psychological disability). In Study IV, children aged 5 to 11 years old (N = 215) were administered a 3-week imagined contact intervention, each week imagining making friendship with a child in wheelchair and defending him/her from bullies. Results revealed positive effects of the intervention (vs. control), assessed after one week, on contact and helping intentions, and intentions to react to exclusionary and name-calling behaviors. The effects were mediated by empathy and outgroup attitudes. In Study V, 6 to 9 years old (N = 56) schoolchildren engaged in a 3-week intervention. Each week, they were asked to imagine contact with a child with disability (type of disability varied across sessions: hearing, visual, physical). Results, assessed one week after the last intervention session, revealed positive effects of the experimental (vs. control) condition on intentions to help children with disability and outgroup attitudes. These effects were mediated by perceptions to belong to a common group. We also used a behavioral measure, asking participants to interact for 5 minutes with a child with disability in a room filmed by cameras, with a novel technology capturing tridimensional images. Results (indices obtained from external coders) revealed that children in the experimental condition remained closer than children in the control condition to the child with disability.
Promoting social inclusion of children with disability in the school using vicarious and imagined intergroup contact / Bisagno, Elisa; Cadamuro, Alessia; Cocco, Veronica Margherita; Ginevra, Maria Cristina; Di Bernardo, Gian Antonio; Birtel, Michèle; Vezzali, Loris. - (2021). (Intervento presentato al convegno Society for Research in Child Development 2021 Virtual Biennial Meeting tenutosi a virtual conference nel 7-9 aprile 2021).