Belfast Telegraph

Friendship can fight bigotry, says study

16 June 2004

KNOWING your friend has a friend "from the other side" can reduce your own sectarian prejudices, Northern Ireland research suggests.

Two surveys conducted for the University of Ulster by Professor Ed Cairns have found evidence that even our friends' friends may have a subtle influence.

The knowledge that our friend knows them can tone down our own anxiety, he said.

"Our study suggests that, for example, even one child living in a segregated neighbourhood who attends an integrated school or a cross-community workshop could be having a positive ripple effect."

Two studies - one of 300 students and another of 700 members of the public - could have important implications for cross-community work.

"Research such as this is beginning to tell us not only whether cross-community contact is effective but to reveal the psychological processes that underlie when it works and how it works," said Professor Cairns.

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