How to change people's minds on social issues with "deep canvassing"

Oddly enough, we don't know very much about how to change people's minds on social issues, not scientifically. That's why the work of the a group of LGBT activists in Los Angeles is offering something valuable to psychology and political science – a detailed map of uncharted scientific territory.

Over the last eight years, and through more than 12,000 conversations, The Leadership LAB has developed a new kind of persuasion they call deep canvassing. Volunteer's go door-to-door, talking to strangers, and often change their attitudes about things like same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

Unfortunately, the first scientist to measure the technique's effectiveness also committed scientific fraud by copy/pasting some data from another study and cutting corners in other ways, creating a wave of negative publicity that threatened the reputation of the people who created the technique, even though they were just the subjects of the study and not involved in the wrongdoing.

In the show, you will meet two scientists who uncovered the fraud and got the paper retracted, and then decided to go ahead and start over, do new research themselves, and see if the persuasion technique that the original researcher was supposed to be studying truly worked.

Can you reduce prejudice with a single 20-minute conversation? Can you flip people's opinions in just one encounter? Learn what the latest science has to say about deep canvassing in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast.


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Dave FleischerDave Fleischer has been a professional mind changer for more than 30 years, and has directed the Leadership LAB since 2010. Previously, he created the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and worked as an organizer for the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Josh KallaJoshua Kalla is a PhD student at the University of California Berkley. He studies political science and how voters make and change their minds.
David BrookmanDavid Brookman is an Assistant Professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business and studies political science as well as persuasion and perspective taking.

Laura GardinerLaura Gardiner (at the time of this recording) was the national mentoring coordinator for the Leadership LAB and helped manage their experimental persuasion canvassing project. Laura spent eight years with the team before moving on to other pursuits.

Steve DelineSteve Deline is a field organizer at the Leadership LAB. He started as a volunteer in 2009 and helped create the LAB's video documentation project, which, according to their website, "has since captured more than 2,000 conversations between canvassers and voters on film and become integral to the team's ability to develop new approaches to persuasion."

In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, "You Are Now Less Dumb," and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode's winner is Deanna Klingbeal who sent in a recipe for chocolate waffle cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at}

Links and Sources


Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

The Leadership LAB

David Brookman

Joshua Kalla

Irregularities in LaCour 2014

Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing

Video: Watch a Voter Change Her Mind

Image courtesy of The Leadership LAB, screenshot of video linked above.