Improving receiving country residents’ attitudes toward refugees: A longitudinal intervention study

Theoretical and practical importance of the research

In recent years, the world has witnessed what has been coined “the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War” (Bansak et al., 2016, p. 217). Millions of individuals from war-torn regions, but also receiving country residents have to deal with this crisis. While many refugees would like to return to their home countries, a safe return is often not feasible for a foreseeable future. Therefore, integration into the receiving society is often the most desirable option for how to deal with the presence of displaced individuals in the receiving countries (e.g., Echterhoff et al., 2020). One of the most important factors for the successful integration of refugees are favourable attitudes from receiving country residents toward refugees and their integration.

Using a longitudinal approach with three time points and one additional qualitative study, the proposed project will (1) investigate United Kingdom (UK) residents’ attitudes toward refugees and selected correlates, and (2) explore an intervention to improve attitudes, especially in individuals initially opposed to refugee immigration and integration.

Thinking about specific ethnic out-groups can determine majority members’ level of prejudice against the superordinate out-group (Asbrock et al., 2014). Previous research has focused on the question of which mental representations of particular out-groups correlate with increased levels of prejudice. In contrast, the proposed research will focus on mental representations of specific out-groups co-varying with decreased levels of prejudice regarding refugees. Prior own similar, yet cross-sectional studies in Germany, Bulgaria, and the UK have shown that those who named Syrians (vs. another group) first, held more positive attitudes toward refugees.

In a nutshell, the first data collection wave of the longitudinal study will identify which groups are named first, when participants simultaneously report particularly positive or negative attitudes toward refugee immigration and their integration, respectively. Then, the qualitative study will ask independent participants what they think about members of these ethnic groups, for example, about their lives in their home countries, their migration motives, or the perils they have presumably experienced before and during their migration. The responses from this qualitative study will then inform an intervention to be implemented in the second wave of the longitudinal study. In essence, the intervention will consist of educating participants on the process of forced migration: Half of the participants will learn about refugees’ characteristics mentioned for the group for which the data from the first wave has shown relationships with particularly positive attitudes. Due to ethical reasons, the other half will not learn about characteristics related to groups rated unfavorably, but instead about relatively neutral information about migration like statistics provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2020). The third wave of the longitudinal study will then test a possible persistence over time of the intervention’s potential effects.

Research methodology

The longitudinal, quantitative part of the study will be divided into three waves of data collection. The first wave will assess the ethnic groups of refugees spontaneously named by participants, and provide the baseline for participants’ attitudes concerning refugee immigration and integration. Wave 2 will be implemented after two weeks, Wave 3 after another two weeks.

We will employ cross-lagged panel analysis, examining relationships between attitudes and contact experiences.

In the qualitative study, we will ask other UK citizens about what comes to their minds when they think of two prominent groups named in Wave 1 of the longitudinal study. We will balance, which group will be described first or second, respectively. We will then apply qualitative content analysis to the responses, which will inform the intervention to be implemented at Wave 2 of the longitudinal study.

Sample size

We considered a power analysis based on the smallest effect size of interest (see Anvari & Lakens, 2021). Then again, because we intend to collect data from a nationally representative UK sample, we will include N = 1,000 participants for time points 1, 2, and 3. Allowing for a dropout rate of approximately 10 to 15 percent from one wave to the next, we will recruit n = 1,300 at the first wave for a final sample of n = 1,000 at the third wave.

For the qualitative study in between the first and second waves, we plan to assess data from N = 100 independent UK participants.

Description of the study costs

The total cost will be ÂŁ 9,642.43

For each of the data collection waves, we estimate 10 minutes for participation. Participants will be remunerated ÂŁ 1.50 per session, leading to costs of ÂŁ 3,460.49 for Wave 1 ( N = 1,300), ÂŁ 3,117.50 for Wave 2 ( N = 1,150), and ÂŁ 2.771.11 for Wave 3 ( N = 1,000). The estimated time for participation in the qualitative study is 15 minutes. Here, participation will be remunerated with ÂŁ 2.20, leading to a subtotal for this study of ÂŁ 293.33 ( N = 100).

This calculation includes the 33% service charge.

Evidence of preregistration

The basic rationale, the hypotheses, and methodological aspects are preregistered at AsPredicted: Captcha

Open science statement

We will make all study materials and data (without identifiable information), including a reproducible code, available via the Open Science Framework ( At the latest, we will upload the resulting manuscript to psyarxiv after acceptance.


Anvari, F., & Lakens, D. (2021). Using anchor-based methods to determine the smallest effect size of interest. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 96 , 104159. Redirecting

Asbrock, F., Lemmer, G., Becker, J., Koller, J., & Wagner, U. (2014). “Who are these foreigners anyway?” The content of the term foreigner and its impact on prejudice. Sage Open, 4 , 1-8. SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research

Bansak, K., Hainmueller, J., & Hangartner, D. (2016). How economic, humanitarian, and religious concerns shape European attitudes toward asylum seekers. Science, 354 (6309) , 217-222. How economic, humanitarian, and religious concerns shape European attitudes toward asylum seekers | Science

Echterhoff, G., Hellmann, J. H., Back, M., Kärtner, J., Morina, N., & Hertel, G. (2020). Psychological antecedents of refugee integration (PARI). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15 (4), 856–879. SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research

UNHCR (2020). Refugee facts. Retrieved from What is a Refugee? Definition and Meaning | USA for UNHCR