Geiger emphasizes how experience matters in civic discussions
According to research published by assistant professor Nathaniel Geiger, Janet Swim of Penn State University, Robyn Mallett of Loyola University, and Laurie Mulvey from Penn State University, interpersonal conversation about civic issues lays groundwork for cooperation and collective action, yet such conversation is uncommon.
“Experience matters: Civic discussion increases self-efficacy and reduces forecasted discomfort in future conversations” published in Social Psychological and Personality Science analyzes results across three studies with more than 2,000 participants.
The researchers found the following:
- Hesitation to discuss a civic topic is predicted by forecasted discomfort about such conversations.
- Individuals tend to overestimate discomfort in such future civic conversations.
- Forecasted discomfort is lower for those with greater experience discussing the topic and after a formal discussion experience, especially for those with little prior experience.
- This negative relationship between experience and forecasted discomfort can be explained by greater perceived ability to discuss the topic.
Results show that forecasted discomfort is associated with reduced willingness to engage in civic conversation and topic-relevant discussions can reduce forecasted discomfort by boosting self-efficacy, particularly for those for whom discussing the topic is novel. This work suggests the importance of having difficult conversations as they might go better than anticipated and could get less uncomfortable over time as more experience with the topic is gained.