Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 February 2020
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.
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: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/8BFYQO.