Social change and perceived societal norms: an application to sexual minorities in Switzerland


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Social change and perceived societal norms: an application to sexual minorities in Switzerland
Spini Dario
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
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When we decide to express our opinion, reveal a (minority) group status, or react to persistent inequalities in a society, we do so by taking into consideration what we believe other people think. Where do these perceptions come from and how exactly do they affect our expressions, our feeling of belonging, and our intention to act up for social change? What if these perceptions are inaccurate? Drawing on different populations in Switzerland (i.e., general population, university students, and sexual minority members) and research designs (i.e., quasi-representative, natural experiment, and a large-scale survey of sexual minorities), the present thesis seeks to answer to these questions. Overall, the results of Study 1 (N = 743) indicate that in a time of social change people are more likely to misperceive others’ opinions for debated issues compared to less debated issues. Specifically, people misperceived others’ opinions toward same-sex female parenting (and other sexual minority issues) as more intolerant than they actually were. Building on this, Study 2 (N = 437) indicates that these misperceptions can be influenced by new institutional decisions (i.e., the new law on stepchild adoption) that reflect the social change process. Notably, students perceived less societal disapproval when they were informed about a new law legalizing stepchild adoption for sexual minorities. Finally, results of Study 3 (N = 1’220) indicate that perceptions of intolerant societal norms (i.e., intolerant others) have a dualistic effect on sexual minorities, as they are simultaneously associated with both increased and decreased support for social change. Together these findings have important implications for sexual minorities, policy makers, and activists in their effort to address structural inequalities and increase minorities’ feeling of inclusion in society.
Social norms, LGBTIQ+, Sexual minorities, Social representations, Perceptions, Integroup relations, Collective Action
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03/07/2020 11:38
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29/08/2020 6:08
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