Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-kw98b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-02T06:43:17.377Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2020

Yale University
University of California, Berkeley
*Joshua L. Kalla, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Department of Statistics and Data Science, Yale University,
David E. Broockman, Associate Professor, Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley,


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.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2020 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We thank the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, The California Wellness Foundation, The Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund, The Frist Foundation, Four Freedoms Fund, The Gateway Fund II of the Denver Foundation, The Healing Trust, The James Irvine Foundation, Luminate, and the Gill Foundation for financial support. Programmatic support was also provided by the New Conversation Initiative, Equality Federation Institute, Freedom for All Americans Education Fund, Movement Advancement Project, and the California Immigrant Policy Center. We thank seminar participants at Berkeley Haas, Columbia, the London School of Economics, the University of North Carolina, the Toronto Political Behavior Workshop, Stanford, the University of Washington and Yale for feedback. We also thank Rob Pressel for research assistance. All errors are our own. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



Allcott, Hunt. 2015. “Site Selection Bias in Program Evaluation.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 130 (3): 1117–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Allport, Gordon W. 1954. The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
Aronson, Elliot. 1999. “The Power of Self-Persuasion.” American Psychologist 54 (11): 875–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bailey, Michael A., Hopkins, Daniel J., and Rogers, Todd. 2016. “Unresponsive and Unpersuaded: The Unintended Consequences of a Voter Persuasion Effort.” Political Behavior 38 (3): 713–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Banerjee, Abhijit, Barnhardt, Sharon, and Duflo, Esther. 2017. “Movies, Margins, and Marketing: Encouraging the Adoption of Iron-Fortified Salt.” In Insights in the Economics of Aging, ed. Wise, David A.. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 285–306.Google Scholar
Bilandzic, Helena, and Busselle, Rick. 2013. “Narrative Persuasion.” In The Sage Handbook of Persuasion: Developments in Theory and Practice, eds. Shen, Lijiang and Dillard, James Price. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 200–19.Google Scholar
Brehm, Jack W. 1966. A Theory of Psychological Reactance . Oxford: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Broockman, David E., and Kalla, Joshua L.. 2016. “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science 352 (6282): 220–4.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Broockman, David E., Kalla, Joshua L., and Sekhon, Jasjeet S.. 2017. “The Design of Field Experiments with Survey Outcomes: A Framework for Selecting More Efficient, Robust, and Ethical Designs.” Political Analysis 25 (4): 435–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruneau, Emile G., and Saxe, Rebecca. 2012. “The Power of Being Heard: The Benefits of ‘Perspective-Giving’ in the Context of Intergroup Conflict.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48 (4): 855–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, Frances S., Minson, Julia A., and Tormala, Zakary L.. 2010. “Tell Me More: The Effects of Expressed Interest on Receptiveness during Dialog.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 (5): 850–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, Geoffrey L., Aronson, Joshua, and Steele, Claude M.. 2000. “When Beliefs Yield to Evidence: Reducing Biased Evaluation by Affirming the Self.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26 (9): 1151–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Craig, Maureen A., and Richeson, Jennifer A.. 2014. “More Diverse yet Less Tolerant? How the Increasingly Diverse Racial Landscape Affects White Americans’ Racial Attitudes.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40 (6): 750–61.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cramer, Katherine J. 2012. “Putting Inequality in its Place: Rural Consciousness and the Power of Perspective.” American Political Science Review 106 (3): 517–32.Google Scholar
Cramer, Katherine J. 2016. The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dinas, Elias, Matakos, Konstantinos, Xefteris, Dimitrios, and Hangartner, Dominik. 2019. “Waking up the Golden Dawn: Does Exposure to the Refugee Crisis Increase Support for Extreme-Right Parties?Political Analysis 27 (2): 244–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Druckman, James N. 2004a. “Political Preference Formation: Competition, Deliberation, and the (Ir) Relevance of Framing Effects.” American Political Science Review 98 (4): 671–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Druckman, James N. 2004b. “Priming the Vote: Campaign Effects in a US Senate Election.” Political Psychology 25 (4): 577–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Druckman, James N., and Nelson, Kjersten R.. 2003. “Framing and Deliberation: How Citizens’ Conversations Limit Elite Influence.” American Journal of Political Science 47 (4): 729–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Enos, Ryan D. 2014. “Causal Effect of Intergroup Contact on Exclusionary Attitudes.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (10): 3699–704.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Enos, Ryan D. 2016. “What the Demolition of Public Housing Teaches Us about the Impact of Racial Threat on Political Behavior.” American Journal of Political Science 60 (1): 123–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Flores, Andrew R., Haider-Markel, Donald P., Lewis, Daniel C., Miller, Patrick R., Tadlock, Barry L., and Taylor, Jami K.. 2018. “Challenged Expectations: Mere Exposure Effects on Attitudes about Transgender People and Rights.” Political Psychology 39 (1): 197–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Galinsky, Adam D., and Moskowitz, Gordon B.. 2000. “Perspective-taking: Decreasing Stereotype Expression, Stereotype Accessibility, and In-Group Favoritism.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78 (4): 708–24.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gehlbach, Hunter, and Vriesema, Christine Calderon. 2019. “Meta-bias: A Practical Theory of Motivated Thinking.” Educational Psychology Review 31 (1): 65–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gehlbach, Hunter, and Brinkworth, Maureen Elizabeth. 2012. “The Social Perspective Taking Process: Strategies and Sources of Evidence in Taking Another’s Perspective.” Teachers College Record 114: 1–29.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., and Green, Donald P.. 2012. Field Experiments: Design, Analysis, and Interpretation. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P., and Larimer, Christopher W.. 2008. “Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment.” American Political Science Review 102 (1): 33–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Green, Donald P., and Gerber, Alan S.. 2015. Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
Green, Donald P., Wilke, Anna, and Cooper, Jasper. 2019. “Countering Violence against Women at Scale: A Mass Media Experiment in Rural Uganda.” Working Paper, available at Scholar
Green, Melanie C., and Brock, Timothy C.. 2000. “The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79 (5): 701–21.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Green, Melanie C., and Brock, Timothy C.. 2002. In the Mind’s Eye: Transportation-Imagery Model of Narrative Persuasion. In Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations, eds. Green, Melane C., Strange, Jeffrey J., and Brock, Timothy C.. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 315–41.Google Scholar
Grossman, Guy, Humphreys, Macartan, and Sacramone-Lutz, Gabriella. 2019. “Information Technology and Political Engagement: Mixed Evidence from Uganda.” The Journal of Politics.Google Scholar
Hainmueller, Jens, and Hopkins, Daniel J.. 2014. “Public Attitudes toward Immigration.” Annual Review of Political Science 17: 225–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hainmueller, Jens, Hangartner, Dominik, and Pietrantuono, Giuseppe. 2017. “Catalyst or Crown: Does Naturalization Promote the Long-Term Social Integration of Immigrants?American Political Science Review 111 (2): 256–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hainmueller, Jens, Lawrence, Duncan, Martén, Linna, Black, Bernard, Figueroa, Lucila, Hotard, Michael, Jiménez, Tomás R., Mendoza, Fernando, Rodriguez, Maria I., Swartz, Jonas J., and Laitin, David D.. 2017. “Protecting Unauthorized Immigrant Mothers Improves Their Children’s Mental Health.” Science 357 (6355): 1041–4.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hajnal, Zoltan, and Rivera, Michael U.. 2014. “Immigration, Latinos, and White Partisan Politics: The New Democratic Defection.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (4): 773–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hangartner, Dominik, Dinas, Elias, Marbach, Moritz, Matakos, Konstantinos, and Xefteris, Dimitrios. 2019. “Does Exposure to the Refugee Crisis Make Natives More Hostile?American Political Science Review 113 (2): 442–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hopkins, Daniel J. 2010. “Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition.” American Political Science Review 104 (1): 40–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hopkins, Daniel J., Sides, John, and Citrin, Jack. 2019. “The Muted Consequences of Correct Information about Immigration.” The Journal of Politics 81 (1): 315–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Itzchakov, Guy, Kluger, Avraham N., and Castro, Dotan R.. 2017. “I Am Aware of My Inconsistencies but Can Tolerate Them: The Effect of High Quality Listening on Speakers’ Attitude Ambivalence.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 43 (1): 105–20.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kalla, Joshua L., and Broockman, David E.. 2018. “The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments.” American Political Science Review 112 (1): 148–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kralik, Joellen. 2017. “Bathroom Bill Legislative Tracking.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Scholar
Lai, Calvin K., Nosek, Brian A., Sartori, Giuseppe, Shin, Jiyun Elizabeth L., Marini, Maddalena, and Rubichi, Sandro. 2016. “Reducing Implicit Racial Preferences: II. Intervention Effectiveness across Time.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 145 (8): 1001–16.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Landemore, Hélène. 2013. “On Minimal Deliberation, Partisan Activism, and Teaching People How to Disagree.” Critical Review 25 (2): 210–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leeper, Thomas J., and Slothuus, Rune. 2014. “Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Public Opinion Formation.” Political Psychology 35: 129–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lenz, Gabriel S. 2013. Follow the Leader? How Voters Respond to Politicians’ Policies and Performance. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Little, Andrew T. 2019. “The Distortion of Related Beliefs.” American Journal of Political Science 63 (3): 675–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lukianoff, Greg, and Haidt, Jonathan. 2019. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
Miller, Richard L. 1976. “Mere Exposure, Psychological Reactance and Attitude Change.” Public Opinion Quarterly 40 (2): 229–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moyer-Gusé, Emily. 2008. “Toward a Theory of Entertainment Persuasion: Explaining the Persuasive Effects of Entertainment-Education Messages.” Communication Theory 18 (3): 407–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mutz, Diana C. 2002. “Cross-cutting Social Networks: Testing Democratic Theory in Practice.” American Political Science Review 96 (1): 111–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nickerson, David W. 2005. “Scalable Protocols Offer Efficient Design for Field Experiments.” Political Analysis 13 (3): 233–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paluck, Elizabeth Levy. 2009. “Reducing Intergroup Prejudice and Conflict Using the Media: A Field Experiment in Rwanda.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96 (3): 574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paluck, Elizabeth Levy. 2010. “Is it Better Not to Talk? Group Polarization, Extended Contact, and Perspective Taking in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36 (9): 1170–85.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Paluck, Elizabeth Levy. 2016. “How to Overcome Prejudice.” Science 352 (6282): 147.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Paluck, Elizabeth Levy, and Green, Donald P.. 2009a. “Deference, Dissent, and Dispute Resolution: An Experimental Intervention Using Mass Media to Change Norms and Behavior in Rwanda.” American Political Science Review 103 (4): 622–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Paluck, Elizabeth Levy, and Green, Donald P.. 2009b. “Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice.” Annual Review of Psychology 60: 339–67.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pavey, Louisa, and Sparks, Paul. 2009. “Reactance, Autonomy and Paths to Persuasion: Examining Perceptions of Threats to freedom and Informational Value.” Motivation and Emotion 33 (3): 277–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petty, Richard E., Haugtvedt, Curtis P., and Smith, Stephen M.. 1995. Elaboration as a Determinant of Attitude Strength: Creating Attitudes that Are Persistent, Resistant, and Predictive of Behavior. In Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences, eds. Petty, Richard E. and Krosnick, Jon A.. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 93–130.Google Scholar
Reny, Tyler T., Collingwood, Loren, and Valenzuela, Ali. 2019. “Vote Switching in the 2016 Election: How Racial and Immigration Attitudes, Not Economics, Explain Shifts in White Voting.” Public Opinion Quarterly 83 (1): 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rokeach, Milton. 1971. “Long-range Experimental Modification of Values, Attitudes, and Behavior.” American Psychologist 26 (5): 453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sands, Melissa, and de Kadt, Daniel. 2019. “Segregation Drives Racial Voting: New Evidence from South Africa.” Political Behavior.Google Scholar
Sands, Melissa L. 2017. “Exposure to Inequality Affects Support for Redistribution.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (4): 663–8.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sawaoka, Takuya, and Monin, Benoît. 2018. “The Paradox of Viral Outrage.” Psychological Science 29 (10): 1665–78.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sherman, David K., Nelson, Leif D., and Steele, Claude M.. 2000. “Do Messages about Health Risks Threaten the Self? Increasing the Acceptance of Threatening Health Messages via Self-Affirmation.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26 (9): 1046–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sides, John, Tesler, Michael, and Vavreck, Lynn. 2018. Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sigelman, Lee, and Sigelman, Carol K.. 1984. “Judgments of the Carter-Reagan Debate: The Eyes of the Beholders.” Public Opinion Quarterly 48 (3): 624–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simonovits, Gábor, Kezdi, Gabor, and Kardos, Peter. 2018. “Seeing the World through the Other’s Eye: An Online Intervention Reducing Ethnic Prejudice.” American Political Science Review 112 (1): 186–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Slater, Michael D., and Rouner, Donna. 1996. “Value-affirmative and Value-Protective Processing of Alcohol Education Messages that Include Statistical Evidence or Anecdotes.” Communication Research 23 (2): 210–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Slater, Michael D., and Rouner, Donna. 2002. “Entertainment—education and Elaboration Likelihood: Understanding the Processing of Narrative Persuasion.” Communication Theory 12 (2): 173–91.Google Scholar
Steele, Claude M. 1988. “The Psychology of Self-Affirmation: Sustaining the Integrity of the Self”. In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 21. Ed. Leonard Berkowitz. San Diego: Academic Press, Inc., 261–302.Google Scholar
Steele, Claude M., Spencer, Steven J., and Lynch, Michael. 1993. “Self-image Resilience and Dissonance: The Role of Affirmational Resources.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64 (6): 885–96.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Steele, Claude M., and Liu, Thomas J.. 1983. “Dissonance Processes as Self-Affirmation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45 (1): 5–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tajfel, Henri. 1970. “Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination.” Scientific American 223 (5): 96–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tesler, Michael. 2015. “Priming Predispositions and Changing Policy Positions: An Account of when Mass Opinion Is Primed or Changed.” American Journal of Political Science 59 (4): 806–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Theodoridis, Alexander G. 2017. “Me, Myself, and (I), (D), or (R)? Partisanship and Political Cognition through the Lens of Implicit Identity.” The Journal of Politics 79 (4): 1253–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Velez, Yamil Ricardo. 2018. “Residential Mobility Constraints and Immigration Restrictionism.” Political Behavior, 1–25. Published online 30 November 2018.Google Scholar
Voelkel, Jan G., Ren, Dongning, and Brandt, Mark. 2019. “Political Inclusion Reduces Political Prejudice.” Working Paper, available at Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Kalla and Broockman Dataset

Supplementary material: PDF

Kalla and Broockman Supplementary Material

Download Kalla and Broockman Supplementary Material(PDF)