The result might seem counterintuitive. Indeed, Hewstone told me, other academic experts thought their conclusions were “bonkers”. But as a disciple of Tajfel, Hewstone had always recognised the centrality of group membership to identity. These days, his findings are widely accepted: for group prejudice to be eroded, group identity has to be maintained. In other words, contact itself is not enough.
Positive contact between members of antagonistic groups will improve how members of these groups generally see each other only if the people involved are seen as representative of their group. For contact to work, one does not want to put individuals through some kind of identity blender, to produce a homogeneous group. The aim is that people can see other people precisely as “other” and then realise that other isn’t bad.