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Psychology in the News

Deep Values Canvassing Intervention Project Funded

Patrick Grzanka, associate professor of psychology, and Elena Schuch and Pamela Rosecrance, counseling psychology graduate students, received grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9) for their local- and state-level policy work. The $2,000 award will enable them to pay recruiters and canvassers to implement a “Deep Values Canvassing” intervention project on sex education. The project is a result of Elena and Pamela’s social justice practicum placement at Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood.

Increasing Support for Comprehensive Sex Education in East Tennessee: A Deep Values Canvassing Project

While public health experts advocate for comprehensive sex education (e.g., ACOG, 2016) and have expressed concern that abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) programs include stigmatizing and medically inaccurate information (Santelli et al., 2017), public understanding of what comprehensive sex education actually entails is limited and politically fraught, based in part on stigma surrounding adolescent sexuality (Elliott, 2010). Psychology, in particular, has lagged behind other disciplinary efforts to critically examine reproductive justice issues, including the effects of access (or lack thereof) to comprehensive sex education (Grzanka & Frantell, 2017; Fahs & McClelland, 2016). In order to change the harmful law governing sex education in Tennessee, it is imperative that we work to reduce stigma surrounding sex education and address misinformation about sex education in the community.

“Deep values canvassing” is a new intervention method that has been shown to be effective in shifting voters’ opinions and reducing prejudice. Canvassers engage with voters in one-on-one conversations exploring each other’s values surrounding stigmatized issues (e.g., abortion, marriage equality, trans rights) and focus on each other’s lived experiences with the issue at-hand. In one highly publicized study, Broockman and Kalla (2016) used deep values canvassing to effectively reduce transphobia and observed effects three months later. But does deep values canvassing work in other political contexts and can it be used as an effective (i.e., systematically measured) advocacy tool for social justice and community-based issues? Accordingly, we seek funding for the implementation of a deep values canvassing project on sex education that will systematically measure the effect to which deep values canvassing can shift voters’ attitudes in favor of comprehensive sex education.

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