All Publications

  • Academics are more specific, and practitioners more sensitive, in forecasting interventions to strengthen democratic attitudes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Chu, J. Y., Voelkel, J. G., Stagnaro, M. N., Kang, S., Druckman, J. N., Rand, D. G., Willer, R. 2024; 121 (3): e2307008121


    Concern over democratic erosion has led to a proliferation of proposed interventions to strengthen democratic attitudes in the United States. Resource constraints, however, prevent implementing all proposed interventions. One approach to identify promising interventions entails leveraging domain experts, who have knowledge regarding a given field, to forecast the effectiveness of candidate interventions. We recruit experts who develop general knowledge about a social problem (academics), experts who directly intervene on the problem (practitioners), and nonexperts from the public to forecast the effectiveness of interventions to reduce partisan animosity, support for undemocratic practices, and support for partisan violence. Comparing 14,076 forecasts submitted by 1,181 forecasters against the results of a megaexperiment (n = 32,059) that tested 75 hypothesized effects of interventions, we find that both types of experts outperformed members of the public, though experts differed in how they were accurate. While academics' predictions were more specific (i.e., they identified a larger proportion of ineffective interventions and had fewer false-positive forecasts), practitioners' predictions were more sensitive (i.e., they identified a larger proportion of effective interventions and had fewer false-negative forecasts). Consistent with this, practitioners were better at predicting best-performing interventions, while academics were superior in predicting which interventions performed worst. Our paper highlights the importance of differentiating types of experts and types of accuracy. We conclude by discussing factors that affect whether sensitive or specific forecasters are preferable, such as the relative cost of false positives and negatives and the expected rate of intervention success.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2307008121

    View details for PubMedID 38215187

  • Correcting misperceptions of out-partisans decreases American legislators' support for undemocratic practices. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Druckman, J. N., Kang, S., Chu, J., N Stagnaro, M., Voelkel, J. G., Mernyk, J. S., Pink, S. L., Redekopp, C., Rand, D. G., Willer, R. 2023; 120 (23): e2301836120


    There is substantial concern about democratic backsliding in the United States. Evidence includes notably high levels of animosity toward out-partisans and support for undemocratic practices (SUP) among the general public. Much less is known, however, about the views of elected officials-even though they influence democratic outcomes more directly. In a survey experiment conducted with state legislators (N = 534), we show that these officials exhibit less animosity toward the other party, less SUP, and less support for partisan violence (SPV) than the general public. However, legislators vastly overestimate the levels of animosity, SUP, and SPV among voters from the other party (though not among voters from their own party). Further, those legislators randomly assigned to receive accurate information about the views of voters from the other party reported significantly lower SUP and marginally significantly lower partisan animosity toward the other party. This suggests that legislators' democratic attitudes are causally linked to their perceptions of other-party voters' democratic attitudes. Our findings highlight the importance of ensuring that office holders have access to reliable information about voters from both parties.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2301836120

    View details for PubMedID 37252992

  • How to build up big team science: a practical guide for large-scale collaborations. Royal Society open science Baumgartner, H. A., Alessandroni, N., Byers-Heinlein, K., Frank, M. C., Hamlin, J. K., Soderstrom, M., Voelkel, J. G., Willer, R., Yuen, F., Coles, N. A. 2023; 10 (6): 230235


    The past decade has witnessed a proliferation of big team science (BTS), endeavours where a comparatively large number of researchers pool their intellectual and/or material resources in pursuit of a common goal. Despite this burgeoning interest, there exists little guidance on how to create, manage and participate in these collaborations. In this paper, we integrate insights from a multi-disciplinary set of BTS initiatives to provide a how-to guide for BTS. We first discuss initial considerations for launching a BTS project, such as building the team, identifying leadership, governance, tools and open science approaches. We then turn to issues related to running and completing a BTS project, such as study design, ethical approvals and issues related to data collection, management and analysis. Finally, we address topics that present special challenges for BTS, including authorship decisions, collaborative writing and team decision-making.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rsos.230235

    View details for PubMedID 37293356

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10245199

  • Moral reframing increases support for economically progressive candidates. PNAS nexus Voelkel, J. G., Mernyk, J. S., Willer, R. 2023; 2 (6): pgad154


    Economically progressive candidates-candidates who champion redistributive policies designed to reduce inequality-rarely win elections in the United States. Here, we propose that progressive candidates achieve greater support by framing their policy platforms in terms of values that resonate beyond their progressive base. In two experiments (total N = 4,138), including one preregistered experiment conducted on a nationally representative probability sample, we found that a presidential candidate who framed his progressive economic platform using values consistent with the "binding" moral foundations-e.g. patriotism, family, and respect for tradition-as opposed to values consistent with the "individualizing" foundations, e.g. equality and social justice, received significantly stronger support. This effect was driven by increased support among conservatives and, unexpectedly, moderates as well. By comparison, a manipulation of how progressive the candidate's platform was had small and inconsistent effects. Despite the potential gains associated with binding framing, analyses using presidential candidates' debate speeches reveal that appeals to binding values are least common among progressive candidates. These findings show, however, that the alignment between values and candidate support is malleable, suggesting economically progressive candidates can build broader coalitions by reframing the values they associate with their platforms.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/pnasnexus/pgad154

    View details for PubMedID 37346269

  • Insights into the accuracy of social scientists' forecasts of societal change NATURE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR Grossmann, I., Rotella, A. A., Hutcherson, C., Sharpinskyi, K., Varnum, M. W., Achter, S. K., Dhami, M., Guo, X., Kara-Yakoubian, M. R., Mandel, D., Raes, L., Tay, L., Vie, A., Wagner, L., Adamkovic, M., Arami, A., Arriaga, P., Bandara, K., Banik, G., Bartos, F., Baskin, E., Bergmeir, C., Bialek, M. K., Borsting, C. T., Browne, D. M., Caruso, E., Chen, R., Chie, B. J., Chopik, W. N., Collins, R., Cong, C. G., Conway, L., Davis, M. V., Day, M. A., Dhaliwal, N. D., Durham, J., Dziekan, M. T., Elbaek, C., Shuman, E., Fabrykant, M., Firat, M. T., Fong, G. A., Frimer, J. M., Gallegos, J. B., Goldberg, S., Gollwitzer, A., Goyal, J., Graf-Vlachy, L. D., Gronlund, S., Hafenbraedl, S., Hartanto, A. J., Hirshberg, M. J., Hornsey, M., Howe, P. L., Izadi, A., Jaeger, B., Kacmar, P., Kim, Y., Krenzler, R. G., Lannin, D., Lin, H., Lou, N., Lua, V. W., Lukaszewski, A. L., Ly, A. R., Madan, C., Maier, M. M., Majeed, N. S., March, D. A., Marsh, A., Misiak, M., Myrseth, K. M., Napan, J., Nicholas, J., Nikolopoulos, K., Otterbring, T., Paruzel-Czachura, M., Pauer, S., Protzko, J., Raffaelli, Q., Ropovik, I., Ross, R. M., Roth, Y., Roysamb, E., Schnabel, L., Schuetz, A., Seifert, M., Sevincer, A. T., Sherman, G. T., Simonsson, O., Sung, M., Tai, C., Talhelm, T., Teachman, B. A., Tetlock, P. E., Thomakos, D., Tse, D. K., Twardus, O. J., Tybur, J. M., Ungar, L., Vandermeulen, D., Vaughan Williams, L., Vosgerichian, H. A., Wang, Q., Wang, K., Whiting, M. E., Wollbrant, C. E., Yang, T., Yogeeswaran, K., Yoon, S., Alves, V. R., Andrews-Hanna, J. R., Bloom, P. A., Boyles, A., Charis, L., Choi, M., Darling-Hammond, S., Ferguson, Z. E., Kaiser, C. R., Karg, S. T., Ortega, A., Mahoney, L., Marsh, M. S., Martinie, M. C., Michaels, E. K., Millroth, P., Naqvi, J. B., Ng, W., Rutledge, R. B., Slattery, P., Smiley, A. H., Strijbis, O., Sznycer, D., Tsukayama, E., van Loon, A., Voelkel, J. G., Wienk, M. A., Wilkening, T. 2023


    How well can social scientists predict societal change, and what processes underlie their predictions? To answer these questions, we ran two forecasting tournaments testing the accuracy of predictions of societal change in domains commonly studied in the social sciences: ideological preferences, political polarization, life satisfaction, sentiment on social media, and gender-career and racial bias. After we provided them with historical trend data on the relevant domain, social scientists submitted pre-registered monthly forecasts for a year (Tournament 1; N = 86 teams and 359 forecasts), with an opportunity to update forecasts on the basis of new data six months later (Tournament 2; N = 120 teams and 546 forecasts). Benchmarking forecasting accuracy revealed that social scientists' forecasts were on average no more accurate than those of simple statistical models (historical means, random walks or linear regressions) or the aggregate forecasts of a sample from the general public (N = 802). However, scientists were more accurate if they had scientific expertise in a prediction domain, were interdisciplinary, used simpler models and based predictions on prior data.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41562-022-01517-1

    View details for Web of Science ID 000931761000002

    View details for PubMedID 36759585

  • The effects of short messages encouraging prevention behaviors early in the COVID-19 pandemic. PloS one Pink, S. L., Stagnaro, M. N., Chu, J., Mernyk, J. S., Voelkel, J. G., Willer, R. 2023; 18 (4): e0284354


    Effectively addressing public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic requires persuading the mass public to change their behavior in significant ways. Many efforts to encourage behavior change-such as public service announcements, social media posts, and billboards-involve short, persuasive appeals, yet the effectiveness of these messages is unclear. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, we tested whether short messages could increase intentions to comply with public health guidelines. To identify promising messages, we conducted two pretests (n = 1,596) in which participants rated the persuasiveness of 56 unique messages: 31 based on the persuasion and social influence literatures and 25 drawn from a pool of crowdsourced messages generated by online respondents. The four top-rated messages emphasized: (1) civic responsibility to reciprocate the sacrifices of health care workers, (2) caring for the elderly and vulnerable, (3) a specific, sympathetic victim, and (4) limited health care system capacity. We then conducted three well-powered, pre-registered experiments (total n = 3,719) testing whether these four top-rated messages, and a standard public health message based on language from the CDC, increased intentions to comply with public health guidelines, such as masking in public spaces. In Study 1, we found the four messages and the standard public health message significantly outperformed a null control. In Studies 2 and 3, we compared the effects of persuasive messages to the standard public health message, finding that none consistently out-performed the standard message. This is in line with other research showing minimal persuasive effects of short messages after the very early stages of the pandemic. Across our studies, we found that (1) short messages can increase intentions to comply with public health guidelines, but (2) short messages featuring persuasive techniques from the social science literature did not substantially outperform standard public health messages.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0284354

    View details for PubMedID 37058445

  • Interventions reducing affective polarization do not necessarily improve anti-democratic attitudes. Nature human behaviour Voelkel, J. G., Chu, J., Stagnaro, M. N., Mernyk, J. S., Redekopp, C., Pink, S. L., Druckman, J. N., Rand, D. G., Willer, R. 2022


    There is widespread concern that rising affective polarization-particularly dislike for outpartisans-exacerbates Americans' anti-democratic attitudes. Accordingly, scholars and practitioners alike have invested great effort in developing depolarization interventions that reduce affective polarization. Critically, however, it remains unclear whether these interventions reduce anti-democratic attitudes, or only change sentiments towards outpartisans. Here we address this question with experimental tests (total n=8,385) of three previously established depolarization interventions: correcting misperceptions of outpartisans, priming inter-partisan friendships and observing warm cross-partisan interactions between political leaders. While these depolarization interventions reliably reduced affective polarization, we do not find compelling evidence that these interventions reduced support for undemocratic candidates, support for partisan violence or prioritizing partisan ends over democratic means. Thus, future efforts to strengthen pro-democratic attitudes may do better if they target these outcomes directly. More broadly, these findings call into question the previously assumed causal effect of affective polarization on anti-democratic attitudes.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41562-022-01466-9

    View details for PubMedID 36316497

  • Advances in transparency and reproducibility in the social sciences. Social science research Freese, J., Rauf, T., Voelkel, J. G. 2022; 107: 102770


    Worries about a "credibility crisis" besieging science have ignited interest in research transparency and reproducibility as ways of restoring trust in published research. For quantitative social science, advances in transparency and reproducibility can be seen as a set of developments whose trajectory predates the recent alarm. We discuss several of these developments, including preregistration, data-sharing, formal infrastructure in the form of resources and policies, open access to research, and specificity regarding research contributions. We also discuss the spillovers of this predominantly quantitative effort towards transparency for qualitative research. We conclude by emphasizing the importance of mutual accountability for effective science, the essential role of openness for this accountability, and the importance of scholarly inclusiveness in figuring out the best ways for openness to be accomplished in practice.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2022.102770

    View details for PubMedID 36058608

  • Belief in the Utility of Cross-Partisan Empathy Reduces Partisan Animosity and Facilitates Political Persuasion. Psychological science Santos, L. A., Voelkel, J. G., Willer, R., Zaki, J. 2022: 9567976221098594


    In polarized political environments, partisans tend to deploy empathy parochially, furthering division. We propose that belief in the usefulness of cross-partisan empathy-striving to understand other people with whom one disagrees politically-promotes out-group empathy and has powerful ramifications for both intra- and interpersonal processes. Across four studies (total N = 4,748), we examined these predictions in online and college samples using surveys, social-network analysis, preregistered experiments, and natural-language processing. Believing that cross-partisan empathy is useful is associated with less partisan division and politically diverse friendship networks (Studies 1 and 2). When prompted to believe that empathy is a political resource-versus a political weakness-people become less affectively polarized (Study 3) and communicate in ways that decrease out-partisans' animosity and attitudinal polarization (Study 4). These findings demonstrate that belief in cross-partisan empathy impacts not only individuals' own attitudes and behaviors but also the attitudes of those they communicate with.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/09567976221098594

    View details for PubMedID 36041234

  • Changing Americans' Attitudes about Immigration: Using Moral Framing to Bolster Factual Arguments ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE Voelkel, J. G., Malik, M., Redekopp, C., Willer, R. 2022; 700 (1): 73-85
  • Pragmatic bias impedes women's access to political leadership. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Corbett, C., Voelkel, J. G., Cooper, M., Willer, R. 1800; 119 (6)


    Progress toward gender equality is thwarted by the underrepresentation of women in political leadership, even as most Americans report they would vote for women candidates. Here, we hypothesize that women candidates are often disadvantaged by pragmatic bias, a tendency to withhold support for members of groups for whom success is perceived to be difficult or impossible to achieve. Across six studies (N = 7,895), we test whether pragmatic bias impedes women's access to a highly significant political leadership position-the US presidency. In two surveys, 2020 Democratic primary voters perceived women candidates to be less electable, and these beliefs were correlated with lower intentions to vote for women candidates (Studies 1 and 2). Voters identified many reasons women would be less electable than men, including others' unwillingness to vote for women, biased media coverage, and higher requirements to prove themselves. We next tested interventions to reduce pragmatic bias. Merely correcting misperceptions of Americans' reported readiness for a woman president did not increase intentions to vote for a woman (Study 3). However, across three experiments (including one preregistered on a nationally representative sample), presenting evidence that women earn as much support as men in US general elections increased Democratic primary voters' intentions to vote for women presidential candidates, an effect driven by heightened perceptions of these candidates' electability (Studies 4 to 6). These findings highlight that social change efforts can be thwarted by people's sense of what is possible, but this may be overcome by credibly signaling others' willingness to act collectively.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2112616119

    View details for PubMedID 35105805

  • Inclusion reduces political prejudice JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Voelkel, J. G., Ren, D., Brandt, M. J. 2021; 95
  • A Tutorial on Conducting and Interpreting a Bayesian ANOVA in JASP ANNEE PSYCHOLOGIQUE van den Bergh, D., Van Doorn, J., Marsman, M., Draws, T., Van Kesteren, E., Derks, K., Dablander, F., Gronau, Q. F., Kucharsk, S., Gupta, A., Sarafoglou, A., Voelkel, J. G., Stefan, A., Ly, A., Hinne, M., Matzke, D., Wagenmakers, E. 2020; 120 (1): 73–96
  • The JASP guidelines for conducting and reporting a Bayesian analysis. Psychonomic bulletin & review van Doorn, J. n., van den Bergh, D. n., Böhm, U. n., Dablander, F. n., Derks, K. n., Draws, T. n., Etz, A. n., Evans, N. J., Gronau, Q. F., Haaf, J. M., Hinne, M. n., Kucharský, Š. n., Ly, A. n., Marsman, M. n., Matzke, D. n., Gupta, A. R., Sarafoglou, A. n., Stefan, A. n., Voelkel, J. G., Wagenmakers, E. J. 2020


    Despite the increasing popularity of Bayesian inference in empirical research, few practical guidelines provide detailed recommendations for how to apply Bayesian procedures and interpret the results. Here we offer specific guidelines for four different stages of Bayesian statistical reasoning in a research setting: planning the analysis, executing the analysis, interpreting the results, and reporting the results. The guidelines for each stage are illustrated with a running example. Although the guidelines are geared towards analyses performed with the open-source statistical software JASP, most guidelines extend to Bayesian inference in general.

    View details for DOI 10.3758/s13423-020-01798-5

    View details for PubMedID 33037582

  • The Effect of Ideological Identification on the Endorsement of Moral Values Depends on the Target Group PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Voelkel, J. G., Brandt, M. J. 2019; 45 (6): 851–63
  • Morally Reframed Arguments Can Affect Support for Political Candidates SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PERSONALITY SCIENCE Voelkel, J. G., Feinberg, M. 2018; 9 (8): 917–24
  • I know that I know nothing: Can puncturing the illusion of explanatory depth overcome the relationship between attitudinal dissimilarity and prejudice? Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology Voelkel, J. G., Brandt, M. J., Colombo, M. 2018; 3 (1): 56-78