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Friday, November 10, 2023

Attitudes in an interpersonal context: Psychological safety as a route to attitude change

Itzchakov, G., & DeMarree, K. G. (2022).
Frontiers in Psychology, 13.


Interpersonal contexts can be complex because they can involve two or more people who are interdependent, each of whom is pursuing both individual and shared goals. Interactions consist of individual and joint behaviors that evolve dynamically over time. Interactions are likely to affect people’s attitudes because the interpersonal context gives conversation partners a great deal of opportunity to intentionally or unintentionally influence each other. However, despite the importance of attitudes and attitude change in interpersonal interactions, this topic remains understudied. To shed light on the importance of this topic. We briefly review the features of interpersonal contexts and build a case that understanding people’s sense of psychological safety is key to understanding interpersonal influences on people’s attitudes. Specifically, feeling psychologically safe can make individuals more open-minded, increase reflective introspection, and decrease defensive processing. Psychological safety impacts how individuals think, make sense of their social world, and process attitude-relevant information. These processes can result in attitude change, even without any attempt at persuasion. We review the literature on interpersonal threats, receiving psychological safety, providing psychological safety, and interpersonal dynamics. We then detail the shortcomings of current approaches, highlight unanswered questions, and suggest avenues for future research that can contribute in developing this field.

This is part of the reason psychotherapy works.

My summary:

Attitudes are evaluations of people, objects, or ideas, and they can be influenced by a variety of factors, including interpersonal interactions. Psychological safety is a climate in which individuals feel safe to take risks, make mistakes, and be vulnerable. When people feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to express their true thoughts and feelings, which can lead to attitude change.

There are a number of ways that psychological safety can promote attitude change. First, feeling psychologically safe can make people more open-minded. When people feel safe, they are more likely to consider new information and perspectives, even if they challenge their existing beliefs. Second, psychological safety can increase reflective introspection. When people feel safe to be vulnerable, they are more likely to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings, which can lead to deeper insights and changes in attitude. Third, psychological safety can decrease defensive processing. When people feel safe, they are less likely to feel threatened by new information or perspectives, which makes them more open to considering them.

Research has shown that psychological safety can lead to attitude change in a variety of interpersonal contexts, including romantic relationships, friendships, and work teams. For example, one study found that couples who felt psychologically safe in their relationships were more likely to change their attitudes towards each other over time. Another study found that employees who felt psychologically safe in their teams were more likely to change their attitudes towards diversity and inclusion.