A test of the imagined contact hypothesis:
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The current study sought to investigate the effect of imagined contact (i.e., instructed contact where participants are prompted to imagine an interaction with an out-group member) on increasing positive perceptions of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Participants included 320 students that were randomly assigned to one of four conditions (positive/labeled, positive/unlabeled, negative/labeled, negative/unlabeled) and rate the perceptions of an imagined person’s communication competence (i.e., appropriateness, effectiveness, and empathy). Results revealed that (a) imagining a positive interaction resulted in higher perceptions of communication competence, (b) having an ASD label assigned to the imagined person resulted in higher levels of perceived communication effectiveness (c) the interaction between labeling and valence did not effect participants’ perceptions of communication competence. These results suggest that labeling individuals with ASD during initial interactions with others may be problematic but improving perceptions of these individuals is dependent on whether the interaction is positive or negative.