Provide evidence of change when exploring different views Public acceptance of inequality could be understood as a form of cognitive avoidance in response to threat. Research on the appraisal of threat in ‘scare tactics’ used in health education campaigns has suggested that when people doubt that individual action would work or doubt their ability to respond, they reduce the threat by denial, avoidance, or reactance18 (see below). It may therefore be important to provide examples of significant social change in order to counter feelings of helplessness or hopelessness (see below).
Countering helplessness and hopelessness about social change It can be helpful to remind ourselves that, in recent decades, there have been significant social changes: • In South Africa apartheid ended in 1994 after decades of struggle. • The percentage of the world living in extreme poverty has fallen from 85% in 1800 to 12% now.19 • In public health, smoking has reduced • Deaths from homicide and road traffic accidents have fallen. • With regard to conflict, the peace process in Northern Ireland has maintained progress since 1998. • In 60 years there have been big changes in relation to sexuality. In 1953 sex between men was illegal. In 1967 it became legal ‘in private’ so long as the men were over 21. In 1994 the age of consent reduced to 18. In 2000 the age of consent was reduced to 16 (equivalent for heterosexual sex) – though the vote was so close it required the Speaker to use his (rarely used) casting vote. In 2002 the civil partnerships bill was passed and in 2013 same-sex couples were allowed to get married. • During this period, the Conservative party moved from trying to prevent schoolchildren learning about homosexuality in the 1980s to a party which supported the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2013.
18 Nestler, S. & Egloff, B. (2010). When scary messages backfire: Influence of dispositional cognitiveavoidanceontheeffectivenessof threat communications. Journal of Research in Personality, 44(1), 137-141. 19 Chivers, T. (2015). Retrieved 19.02.16 from http://www.buzzfeed.com/tomchivers/things-you- didnt-know-about-extreme-poverty#.sg3YNwPPo