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date: 16 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Physical conditions, such as body size, physical deformity, and deafness, elicit stigma, which has emotional, social, and health consequences. Researchers have consistently found that contact with a stigmatized individual can be one of the most powerful tools for dismantling this stigma. Specifically, the contact hypothesis argues that a lack of knowledge about stigmatized others makes it easier to stereotype and discriminate against them. Although the contact hypothesis has been supported in research, this chapter argues that network science offers relevant theory and research that may be instructive for further understanding and contextualizing the contact hypothesis. This chapter suggests that the structure and content of social networks affect stigmatizing attitudes and provide a theoretical basis to examine how individuals who are routinely in “contact” with stigmatized persons (e.g., family members, co-workers, and health professionals) may influence stigma. Finally, the chapter discusses the importance of these insights for anti-stigma campaigns.

Keywords: contact hypothesis, intergroup contact, social networks, stigma, stigma change

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