Participatory practices at work change attitudes and behavior toward societal authority and justice

Sherry Jueyu Wu, Elizabeth Levy Paluck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Generalized attitudes toward authority and justice are often conceptualized as individual differences that are resistant to enduring change. However, across two field experiments with Chinese factory workers and American university staff, small adjustments to people’s experience of participation in the workplace shifted these attitudes one month later. Both experiments randomly assigned work groups to a 20-minute participatory meeting once per week for six weeks, in which the supervisor stepped aside and workers discussed problems, ideas, and goals regarding their work (vs. a status quo meeting). Across 97 work groups and 1,924 workers, participatory meetings led workers to be less authoritarian and more critical about societal authority and justice, and to be more willing to participate in political, social, and familial decision-making. These findings provide rare experimental evidence of the theoretical predictions regarding participatory democracy: that local participatory experiences can influence broader democratic attitudes and empowerment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2633
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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