Richard's question

We are helping Dr Lesley Newson of University of Exeter, and her husband Professor Pete Richerson of University of California, Davis, with their researches into changes in attitudes. It involves giving an opinion on how a certain situation should be handled, and also asking friends and family if they will do the same. Lesley explains below how you can help them.

Everyone complains about the way "society" is changing. Change always seems to be too fast in the wrong directions or too or too slow in the right directions. But why does it change at all? It must ultimately come down to two things:

Generational change - People who grow up with different experiences form different values. But values change too quickly for it to be just a matter of people with new experiences replacing people with old experiences.

Opinion change - People do change their minds and psychologists understand something of what persuades people to do this but we are still a long way from understanding how this leads to the changes we are seeing in today's society.

My colleagues and I are trying to add to our understanding of what influences the speed and direction of change. As part of this project, I am asking people to write the ending to a short story -- it can be done online and should only take a few minutes. We hope it will help us learn about factors that influence opinion and we hope that lots of U3A members will take part.

The topic we are addressing is homosexuality, because opinion on homosexuality has changed extremely rapidly in the last half century. Many elements of Western culture have changed during this time but few have changed as dramatically as cultural norms about homosexuality.

Lesley Newson

If you would like to take part in this study, please click here.


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Last update was 28th August 2009