Reducing Exclusionary Attitudes through Interpersonal Conversation: Evidence from Three Field Experiments

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Abstract

Exclusionary attitudes-prejudice toward outgroups and opposition to policies that promote their well-being-are presenting challenges to democratic societies worldwide. Drawing on insights from psychology, we argue that non-judgmentally exchanging narratives in interpersonal conversations can facilitate durable reductions in exclusionary attitudes. We support this argument with evidence from three pre-registered field experiments targeting exclusionary attitudes toward unauthorized immigrants and transgender people. In these experiments, 230 canvassers conversed with 6,869 voters across 7 US locations. In Experiment 1, face-To-face conversations deploying arguments alone had no effects on voters' exclusionary immigration policy or prejudicial attitudes, but otherwise identical conversations also including the non-judgmental exchange of narratives durably reduced exclusionary attitudes for at least four months (d = 0.08). Experiments 2 and 3, targeting transphobia, replicate these findings and support the scalability of this strategy (ds = 0.08, 0.04). Non-judgmentally exchanging narratives can help overcome the resistance to persuasion often encountered in discussions of these contentious topics.

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Kalla, J. L., & Broockman, D. E. (2020). Reducing Exclusionary Attitudes through Interpersonal Conversation: Evidence from Three Field Experiments. American Political Science Review, 114(2), 410–425. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055419000923

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