University of California Santa Cruz Overcoming Resistance to Change Discussion Most answers do not require more than 1-3 sentences.1. Why is it important t

University of California Santa Cruz Overcoming Resistance to Change Discussion Most answers do not require more than 1-3 sentences.1. Why is it important to find effective ways to reduce intergroup prejudice and discrimination (page 164)? 2. The authors highlight two primary reasons that people tend to be resistant to attitude change (page 165). One reason is that intergroup attitudes are tied to our social identity. A second reason is that people tend to use cognitive strategies to reinforce their existing attitudes. Explain each of these below. 3. The authors review how research studies have found that some popular strategies for changing people’s attitudes have not proven effective (page 165). They also review reasons why they may not work. Describe one strategy that does not appear effective and one reason it may not usually work. 4. The authors advocate narrative-based methods for prejudice-reduction. In a few sentences, summarize each of the three reasons why they consider them effective for overcoming attitudinal resistance. 5.The authors describe two studies that led to reduced prejudice. One involved television episodes and another involved a radio soap opera (see page 166). Describe one of these studies. What did the researchers do in their study? What did they find? 6. The authors suggest some components of narratives that may be especially helpful for creating positive intergroup attitude shifts (page 167). Select one or two of them and propose in a few sentences how they could be incorporated into a television program aimed at reducing prejudice toward a particular group. In other words, imagine you were designing a TV show and you wanted to pitch your idea to a producer. 7. Continuing with your proposed television show from the prior question, how might you make sure that you avoid creating counter-productive narratives (see page 167)? 818552
CDPXXX10.1177/0963721418818552Murrar, BrauerNarratives and Intergroup Attitudes
Overcoming Resistance to Change:
Using Narratives to Create More Positive
Intergroup Attitudes
Current Directions in Psychological
2019, Vol. 28(2) 164­–169
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0963721418818552
Sohad Murrar and Markus Brauer
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Researchers and practitioners have proposed numerous methods to reduce prejudice and create more positive attitudes
toward members of other groups. However, empirical support for the effectiveness of these methods is mixed at best.
Here, we propose that intergroup attitudes tend to be highly resistant to change, and thus, any method aiming to
change these attitudes will be effective only if it successfully overcomes this resistance. First, we argue that traditional
methods used to promote positive intergroup attitudes are inadequate in this regard. Next, we suggest that narratives
are a unique way of overcoming resistance because they create less reactance, transport individuals into a story world,
and provide them with social models. We then describe empirical evidence suggesting that narratives are likely to be
particularly useful for creating more positive attitudes toward members of other social groups. Finally, we propose
a number of empirical and theoretical questions that present challenges for research on narratives and intergroup
intergroup attitudes, resistance, narratives, prejudice, discrimination
Members of many groups face a lack of inclusion or,
even worse, discrimination: Ethnic minorities; members
of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
community; religious minorities; women in technological fields; and people with disabilities are just a few
examples. Reducing prejudice and promoting positive
attitudes toward these groups is not only an ethical
imperative but also crucial for the future of our society.
When individuals are the target of prejudice, they drop
out at higher rates from educational institutions, are
less productive, and suffer from poorer mental and
physical health than their included peers. Companies
that fail to create an inclusive work climate are less
innovative and lose highly qualified employees to their
competitors. In short, a lack of inclusion leads to a loss
of talent.
Despite the importance of the problem, social scientists and practitioners know relatively little about
how to produce lasting changes in people’s intergroup
attitudes, that is, attitudes toward members of other
social groups. Most prodiversity initiatives are not evaluated, and among the few that have been, most turn
out to be ineffective. In this article, we propose that
attitude resistance limits the effectiveness of commonly
used methods for curbing prejudice. We highlight the
usefulness of narrative-based approaches for overcoming this resistance. Stories in general, and television
shows in particular, are a great way to get people to
change their intergroup attitudes and to behave in a
less discriminatory manner.
Intergroup Attitudes Are Highly Resistant
Attitude researchers have long focused on a construct
that prevents attitude change: resistance. Highly resistant attitudes tend to be immune to pressures to change.
When individuals are exposed to persuasive messages
related to a resistant attitude, they often generate counterarguments, discount the persuader, selectively attend
to attitude-congruent information, or even experience
anger (Knowles & Linn, 2004).
Corresponding Author:
Markus Brauer, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of
Psychology, 1202 West Johnson St., Madison, WI 53706-1611
Narratives and Intergroup Attitudes
We propose that intergroup attitudes tend to be
highly resistant for two primary reasons. First, intergroup attitudes are closely tied to our social identity,
the part of our self-concept that is based on the social
groups of which we are members. As a way to feel good
about ourselves, we tend to attribute positive traits to
groups we belong to (in-groups) and negative traits to
groups that we are not members of (out-groups; Tajfel
& Turner, 1979). Second, we frequently engage in psychological processes known to reinforce intergroup
attitudes. We tend to subtype counterstereotypical outgroup members into a special category of individuals
who do not represent that out-group. Intergroup attitudes can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies when we
create the conditions for out-group members to behave
in expected ways, and we are often affected by a confirmation bias and thus interpret ambiguous behaviors
by out-group members negatively.
There is an extensive scientific literature on how to
change resistant attitudes (Petty, Wheeler, & Tormala,
2003). Unfortunately, this literature seems to be ignored
by many educators, employers, policymakers, and
sometimes even researchers who have proposed prodiversity initiatives or prejudice-reduction methods. As
an example, consider methods aimed at changing people’s implicit biases. A recent analysis aggregating the
results of nearly 500 earlier studies revealed that these
methods have no effects on discriminatory behavior
(Forscher et al., 2018). The same is true for diversity
training, which encourages individuals to become
aware of their own privileges, increase their knowledge
of discrimination, and learn about behaviors that perpetuate power differences between groups. Such training has been shown to be either ineffective or
counterproductive in recent empirical research involving hundreds of studies (Dobbin & Kalev, 2016). Numerous other traditional methods, such as increased contact
between members of different ethnic groups, have not
been adequately evaluated in field settings (Paluck,
Green, & Green, 2018).
We suggest that these traditional methods do not
adequately deal with the high resistance of intergroup
attitudes. When exposed to these methods, people
know that they are the target of a persuasive attempt,
which has been shown to lead to biased cognitions and
greater resistance to change (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986).
People are often obligated by their employers or educational institutions to participate in traditional methods, which threatens their self-determination and
therefore increases resistance to attitude change (Silvia,
2006). In addition, the methods indirectly communicate
to people that there is something wrong with them and
that they need to change, therefore creating reactance
(Brehm, 1966). Finally, traditional methods rely on a
thoughtful consideration of the arguments in relation
to one’s personal views and attitudes and require high
motivation to address one’s own biases (Monteith &
Mark, 2005)—two conditions that are rarely satisfied in
real-world settings.
Using Narratives to Overcome Resistance
Are there prejudice-reduction methods that effectively
address the resistance problem of intergroup attitudes?
We suggest that narrative-based methods do precisely
that. A narrative is a series of events that are tied
together through characters and that usually has a
beginning, a middle, and an end. Narrative-based methods for creating positive intergroup attitudes transmit
messages to audiences using a variety of formats, such
as television, YouTube, radio, podcasts, books, comics,
and paintings.
There are at least three reasons why narrative-based
methods are particularly effective in reducing attitudinal
resistance (see Fig. 1). First, narratives have the unique
ability to contain rather subtle messages about positive
intergroup relations. Because the plot is usually the
most salient aspect of the narrative to consumers, their
“perception of persuasive intent” is minimized (Dal Cin,
Zanna, & Fong, 2004, p. 177). When individuals decide
to read a book or watch a television program, they are
expecting to be entertained, not persuaded to shift their
attitudes. Subtle messages included in narratives are
thus less likely to threaten individuals’ basic need for
independence and therefore less likely to create
Second, narratives reduce resistance because consumers feel transported; that is, they feel absorbed by
the narrative world and visualize themselves in the
story (Green & Brock, 2000). They also tend to identify
and get emotionally involved with the characters. When
individuals feel transported and identify with the characters, they are less likely to scrutinize the embedded
messages because they are less motivated and have
fewer cognitive capacities to do so (Kreuter et al.,
2007). As a result, they are less likely to identify points
to counterargue. They also perceive the messages as
more personally relevant to them, which increases their
receptivity to those messages (Petty, Cacioppo, &
Haugtvedt, 1992).
Third, narratives allow people to observe social role
models. Consumers can observe characters receive
rewards for behaving in prosocial ways, experience
something negative for behaving in undesirable ways,
or transition through situations that might be experienced in real life (Bandura, 2004). Thus, role models
increase consumers’ self-efficacy and shift outcome
expectations for engaging in particular behaviors. This
self-efficacy: belief in one’s ability to succeed in a
specific situation or task
Murrar, Brauer
Methods (Compared
With Other
Exposure to
Role Models
Fig. 1. Schematic illustrating three paths through which narrative-based prejudice-reduction methods
can reduce attitude resistance and thus create more positive intergroup attitudes.
is particularly important because people are more resistant to attitude and behavior change when they have a
low sense of self-efficacy.
Successful Use of Narratives
Psychologists and practitioners interested in using narratives to create more positive intergroup attitudes need
not start from scratch. Entertaining narratives, with persuasive messages weaved into their storylines, have
effectively been used to shift people’s attitudes, beliefs,
and intentions in numerous domains and countries
(Braddock & Dillard, 2016).
In the prejudice domain, there is some research suggesting that narratives might be a useful tool for creating more positive intergroup attitudes. Correlational
studies show that the consumption of television narratives infused with messages about positive intergroup
relations is related to positive attitudes toward outgroup members (Schiappa, Gregg, & Hewes, 2006). In
a recently conducted study, Murrar and Brauer (2018)
demonstrated that consuming a narrative with positive
messages about intergroup relations and minority
groups has a causal effect on intergroup attitudes.
When randomly assigned to watch episodes of a popular sitcom portraying Muslim Canadians in a relatable
way, individuals were less prejudiced toward Muslims
immediately after viewing and 4 weeks later, compared
with individuals who watched episodes of a popular
sitcom that did not portray any minorities or topics
related to intergroup relations.
Other research suggests that radio narratives can have
a positive effect on perceptions of social norms for intergroup interactions in contexts of conflict. When adults
in villages of Rwanda listened to a radio soap opera
about reducing intergroup hostility and mistrust for
12 months (several years after the Rwandan genocide),
they became more open to future generations marrying
members of a religious, ethnic, or regional out-group
(Paluck, 2009). Narratives in books also seem to have a
positive effect. For example, having 6- to 12-year-old
European Americans listen to short narratives about
famous African American historical figures and their
encounters with racism led them to rate African Americans more positively (Hughes, Bigler, & Levy, 2007).
Murrar and Brauer (2018) and Johnson, Jasper,
Griffin, and Huffman (2013) summarize several other
empirical studies on the effects of narratives on intergroup attitudes. Although the existing studies show
promising results, many of them suffer from methodological shortcomings that prevent the authors from
excluding plausible alternative interpretations. In fact,
none of the published studies satisfy the six essential
and desirable characteristics described in Table 1. Most
studies also do not identify the underlying mechanism
and limit themselves to testing the effect with a single
narrative. These methodological shortcomings may be
the reason why narrative-based methods are hardly ever
mentioned in flagship publications on prejudice reduction (e.g., Dovidio, Hewstone, Glick, & Esses, 2010;
Fiske, Gilbert, & Lindzey, 2010). Clearly, more research
is needed to better understand the role of narratives in
creating more positive intergroup attitudes. We make
some suggestions regarding this research in the next
Moving Forward
It is important to rigorously evaluate whether narrativebased methods can effectively create more positive
Narratives and Intergroup Attitudes
Table 1. Characteristics of Empirical Studies That Allow
for Rigorous Scientific Testing of the Effectiveness of
Narratives to Create More Positive Intergroup Attitudes
Essential characteristics
1. P
articipants are randomly assigned to experimental
2. T
he narrative in the control group is comparable in length,
genre, production quality, and entertainment value with the
narrative in the experimental group. It has also been shown
not to create more negative intergroup attitudes compared
with a control group that is exposed to no narrative at all.
3. Intergroup attitudes are measured with validated outcome
measures and in multiple ways (e.g., self-reports, behaviors,
perceptions of climate by individuals who are the target of
4. Outcomes are assessed both immediately and after a delay.
Desirable characteristics
5. T
he narrative is tested in a field setting.
6. T
he effectiveness of the narrative is compared with that of
other methods aimed at creating more positive intergroup
intergroup attitudes. Such rigorous tests can occur only
if empirical evaluations have the characteristics listed
in Table 1. As already mentioned, none of the existing
studies satisfy these six criteria, and the current empirical evidence is suggestive at best.
Furthermore, we propose that it is theoretically
important to examine whether the effectiveness of
narrative-based methods is indeed attributable to their
enhanced capacity to reduce resistance. It is thus
important to measure attitude resistance (in addition to
intergroup attitudes). This can be done by providing
participants with an opportunity to express components
of resistance, such as counterarguments or opposing
information to the messages embedded within the narratives. Participants can be asked open-ended questions
about, for example, what they thought of the narratives
or how acceptable they found them. Reactance can be
assessed among participants through explicit inquiry
about their affective responses (e.g., irritability, aggravation) and cognitive responses (e.g., perception of
constraint) to the narrative (see Moyer-Gusé & Nabi,
2010). The final step is to show that the effect of narrative type (experimental vs. control) on intergroup
attitudes is indeed mediated by resistance.
Future research should identify the components of
narratives that are crucial for creating positive intergroup attitude shifts. The following components are
likely to play an important role (see Murrar, Gavac, &
Brauer, 2017): (a) displays of intergroup friendships;
(b) displays of romantic relationships involving members of different social groups; (c) portrayals of minorities in a way that fosters perspective taking and
empathy; (d) modeling of the “right” behaviors, such
as behaving in an inclusive way or speaking up against
discrimination, by dominant group members; (e) displays of minority groups as being heterogeneous; and
(f) display of minorities in (moderately) counterstereotypic ways. Once such narrative components are identified and isolated, it will be possible to examine the
relative strength of their influence on intergroup attitudes, that is, the extent to which the effectiveness of
a given narrative is moderated by the presence or
absence of each of these components.
Relatedly, our field would benefit from research
identifying the components that are counterproductive.
Some narratives can have a negative effect on intergroup attitudes and behaviors. Vidmar and Rokeach
(1974) suggested that consumers of the television show
All in the Family, featuring Archie Bunker as the protagonist, became more prejudiced with exposure. This
research suggests that the portrayal of an undesirable
(bigoted) character can backfire. Social psychological
theorizing suggests that the portrayal of negative characters may be effective, but only if these characters are
not the protagonist (because of our strong tendency to
identify with the protagonist of a story) and if the characters experience negative social sanctions for their
bigoted behavior in the narrative. Future research is
needed to verify this suggestion.
Self-selection is also a key variable in media research.
Consider two television shows that both have prodiversity messages embedded in them. Show A focuses on
perspective taking and empathy and thus contains
mostly minority characters, whereas Show B portrays
a larger number of nonminority characters who model
the “right” behaviors. It could be that Show A leads to
positive intergroup attitude shifts that are twice as large
as those induced by Show B when consumers actually
watch them, but Show B is viewed by five times as
many people as Show A. In that case, Show B would
be more effective than Show A on a societal level. A
shift toward more positive intergroup attitudes on a
societal scale is dependent on both the effectiveness of
a given narrative and the likelihood that consumers will
choose to expose themselves to that narrative. Future
research thus has to examine what factors cause consumers to actually expose themselves to the narratives
with embedded positive messages.
Narratives have a unique power to reduce resistance to
attitude change. Given that intergroup attitudes tend to
be highly resistant, narrative-based approaches to reducing prejudice are likely to produce enduring effects.
Furthermore, narratives are usually communicated
Murrar, Brauer
through media that are widely available. The average
American consumed about 4,000 hr of media in 2016,
and yet the media continue to be underexplored in the
domain of intergroup attitudes. Prejudice researchers
and diversity practitioners interested in creating positive
social change should turn their attention to the media
and harness the power of narratives to bring a wellcrafted story of social equality into reality.
Recommended Reading
Braddock, K., & Dillard, J. P. (2016). (See References). A
meta-analysis of the impact of narratives on attitudes,
behaviors, beliefs, and intentions.
Johnson, D. R., Jasper, D. M., Griffin, S., & Huffman, B. L.
(2013). (See References). An empirical article on the
effects of narratives on intergroup prejudice that includes
an overview of the research on this topic.
Moyer-Gusé, E. (2008). Toward a theory of entertainment
persuasion: Explaining the persuasive effects of entertainment-education messages. Communication Theory,
18, 407–425. A theoretical review of how entertainment
media involve audiences with narratives and cha…
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