Understanding the Psychological Mechanisms that Constrain the Transfer of Dialogue Effects

An intrinsic component of evaluating the success of a dialogue programme is the concept of transfer. This refers to the means by which the effects of dialogue extend beyond the immediate participants to their wider social groups and go on to influence broader societal and policy change. In this paper I am interested in exploring, from a psychological perspective, why positive dialogue effects at an individual level (i.e., the micro level) sometimes fail to motivate future positive behaviour in the local social milieu (i.e., the meso level). This failure of dialogue effects to permeate beyond the immediate group can mean that transfer is limited, thus raising questions about the effectiveness of dialogue interventions. Drawing on psychological research that looks at mechanisms of indirect contact (whereby positive effects of contact with an out-group member spread beyond the immediate setting) I propose that a factor which might hinder the process of transfer is a cognitive bias called vicarious moral licensing. I propose that by understanding the psychological mechanisms that stymie the transfer of individual attitudinal change in to group behavioural outcomes, one can better address the crucial question of how to maximise the degree of transfer following from dialogue
Katherine O’Lone

Katherine O’Lone

Researcher and public education officer at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge

Katherine O'Lone holds a BA (1st Class Hons) in Linguistics from University College, London, an MA (Distinction) in Cognition and Culture from Queen’s University, Belfast and an MSc and PhD in Applied Social Psychology, both from Royal Holloway, University London.