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Sincere forms of political persuasion are one of the bedrocks of democratic functioning. So, what makes an ordinary person more persuasive when they make sincere attempts at changing the hearts and minds of fellow citizens?  Little is known about what types of individuals, and personal and psychological characteristics, have a persuasive advantage over others.


To answer this question, researchers conducted an online study asking Democrats and Republicans (persuaders) to write what they believed would be a persuasive argument on a political topic of their choosing. A sample of 3,131 individuals rated how persuasive each argument was for one of three target individuals: an “average” in-party member, an “average” out-party member, or an “average American.” They controlled for factors such as persuaders’ and judges’ age, education, and ethnicity and found that arguments written by women, liberal democrats, the intellectually humble (people who recognize their beliefs might be wrong), and those without strong party identifications were consistently rated as more persuasive than others.


These findings challenge some common notions of persuasion. For instance, men are considered more persuasive in the business world than women. This could be because of masculine notions of leadership that are socially salient or preferred. In this study, women’s arguments were found to be more persuasive, possibly because the audience that rated their content was not aware of their gender. As the authors don’t provide any conclusive explanation for these results, they encourage future researchers to uncover what exactly makes these groups (women, liberals, intellectually humble, low party identifiers) more persuasive. 



Lees, J., Todd, H., & Barranti, M. (2023). Women, the intellectually humble, and liberals write more persuasive political arguments. PNAS nexus, 2(5), pgad143.