Brief Conversations Change Opinions

Science studyA retracted study is getting new life. Researcher Michael J. LaCour had published a widely cited political science study in Science, claiming that short conversations changed people's minds about gay marriage. However, two scientists, wanting to replicate his work, found problems and published in a paper, "Irregularities in LaCour." 

Although the issues stand, those who fought to get the study retracted have since been able to replicate some important findings, after all. The new study focuses on attitudes about transgender people: 

...well-trained canvassers walked around Miami neighborhoods, knocking on doors and having 10-minute conversations with voters about legal discrimination against transgender people. The activists showed the residents a brief video describing both sides of the debate, encouraged them to talk about their personal experiences of prejudice, and asked where they stood on the issue. The researchers surveyed the same residents three days later, three weeks later, six weeks later, and three months later to see how their convictions had changed.

About 10 percent of respondents expressed more-positive feelings toward transgender people after talking to canvassers. Those changes in attitude were substantial, and they held up through the follow-up surveys. Both transgender and nontransgender canvassers were able to change minds - a difference from Mr. LaCour and Mr. Green's retracted study, which claimed that voters had found gay canvassers more persuasive on gay rights.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What does the situation tell us about research and publications?
  • What are the implications of this study for other political issues and persuasive arguments? 
  • These conversations included a 55-second video. To what extent do you think this video affected attitudes?