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Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 1565–1585 | Cite as

Think of the consequences: A decade of discourse about same-sex marriage

  • Babak HemmatianEmail author
  • Sabina J. Sloman
  • Uriel Cohen Priva
  • Steven A. Sloman
Article

Abstract

Approaching issues through the lens of nonnegotiable values increases the perceived intractability of debate (Baron & Spranca in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 70, 1–16, 1997), while focusing on the concrete consequences of policies instead results in the moderation of extreme opinions (Fernbach, Rogers, Fox, & Sloman in Psychological Science, 24, 939–946, 2013) and a greater likelihood of conflict resolution (Baron & Leshner in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 6, 183–194, 2000). Using comments on the popular social media platform Reddit from January 2006 until September 2017, we showed how changes in the framing of same-sex marriage in public discourse relate to changes in public opinion. We used a topic model to show that the contributions of certain protected-values-based topics to the debate (religious arguments and freedom of opinion) increased prior to the emergence of a public consensus in support of same-sex marriage (Gallup, 2017), and declined afterward. In contrast, the discussion of certain consequentialist topics (the impact of politicians’ stance and same-sex marriage as a matter of policy) showed the opposite pattern. Our results reinforce the meaningfulness of protected values and consequentialism as relevant dimensions for describing public discourse and highlight the usefulness of unsupervised machine-learning methods in tackling questions about social attitude change.

Keywords

Protected values Consequentialism Same-sex marriage Latent Dirichlet allocation Reddit 

Notes

Author note

This article greatly benefited from discussion with Robert Thorstad and members of the Sloman Lab at Brown University. We thank Elinor Amit, Linda Covington, David Sherman, Leila Sloman, Semir Tatlidil, An Vo, and Luana Pessanha de Mattos for their help with the data gathering. Earlier versions of the results included in this article were presented at the Heterodox Psychology Workshop held at Chapman University in Orange, California, USA, in August 2018, and at the 39th Annual Conference of the Society for Judgment and Decision-Making in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, in November 2018. This publication was made possible through a grant from the Intellectual Humility in Public Discourse Project at the University of Connecticut and the John Templeton Foundation.

Supplementary material

13428_2019_1215_MOESM1_ESM.docx (730 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 730 kb)

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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social and Decision SciencesCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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