Political and non-political belief change elicits behavioral change


Vlasceanu, M., McMahon, C., Van Bavel, J. J., & Coman, A. (Submitted). Political and non-political belief change elicits behavioral change.


Beliefs have long been posited to be a predictor of behavior. However, empirical investigations into the relationship between beliefs and behaviors, mostly correlational in nature, have provided conflicting findings. Here, we are interested in the causal impact of beliefs on behaviors. To explore this relationship in an experimental setting, in Study 1, 183 Cloud Research participants rated the accuracy of a set (half correct, half incorrect) of health-related statements (belief pre-test) and chose corresponding campaigns to which they could donate funds (behavior pre-test). They were then provided with relevant evidence in favor of the correct statements and against the incorrect statements. Finally, participants rated the accuracy of the initial set of statements again (belief post-test) and were given a chance to change their donation choices (behavior post-test). We found that evidence changed beliefs and this, in turn, led to behavioral change. In two follow-up studies (N=83, N=393), we replicated these findings with politically charged topics. To increase the ecological validity of our findings, the behavior measured (i.e., monetary donation) came at a personal cost to participants. We found that Democrats changed their behaviors as a function of belief change more for Democratic compared to Republican items. Republicans, however, did not exhibit a difference in their behavior change as a function of belief change between the Democratic and Republican items, pointing to an asymmetric partisan bias in the effect of belief change on behavioral change. These results are of particular relevance for interventions aimed at promoting constructive behaviors such as recycling, donating, or employing preventative health measures. 

Last updated on 04/21/2021