Could Kevin Hart have 'evolved' since posting his controversial tweets? Yes, says science.

People's views can change. What do we do with that?

  • Decade-old tweets by Kevin Hart, directed at gay men, have recently enflamed controversy.
  • 2016 studies suggest that people's outlook and opinions can dramatically change over time.
  • His hosting the Academy Awards ceremony could signal a message of redemption in terms of LGBT alliance.

We live in interesting times, an age where more — it certainly seems — is expected from comedians, in terms of what they say, than politicians. That goes for both Republicans and Democrats. Perhaps it's because, as Shakespeare said, there's truth in jest. And sadly, we already expect those in office to lie to us. Or perhaps the world has just gone topsy-turvy.

Nevertheless, as we consider vexing things uttered, let us examine the ascension, and quick fade-out, of Kevin Hart as host of the 2019 Oscars ceremony.

On December 4, 2018, headlines swirled around the world that the starry-eyed actor would host the 91st Academy Awards. However, less than 48 hours from accepting the honor, Hart stepped down as emcee after critics argued several of his past tweets were offensive to LGBT individuals. Many of the posts were dated (they've since been deleted) from 2011, 2010, and 2009 — 10 years ago.

In context, Hart was 29, Twitter was less than 3, and President Obama had not yet announced his support for same-sex marriage (that happened in May of 2012). Could Hart, as a "funny truth-teller," have meant what he said, and said what he meant, in those disparaging tweets against gay men? Yes. Could his sentiments have changed since then? According to recent research, also yes.

Trans woman Marsha P. Johnson was a pivotal figure in the early gay rights movement. Image source: Netflix

New data suggests that assuming someone thinks the way they did a decade ago could be as unfair as expecting them to look the way they did 10 years prior. Why? Because people are liable to change — not just physically, but mentally as well. In one 2016 study, for instance, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reported that its participants were not only capable of multiple simultaneous changes, but were able of change in a myriad of ways, too. Not over the course of years either — in just six weeks.

The results of the study, which were published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, suggest that significant transformations are possible for people across the board, including Kevin Hart, when mediations are set in place. Indeed, participants in the study — aka "intervention" — demonstrated dramatic improvements in more than a dozen outcomes, including their working memory, mood, reading comprehension, self-esteem, mindfulness, and even physical endurance and flexibility. We're quite malleable, it seems, under the right circumstances.

As Science Daily reported, in regard to the researchers' findings, we may be "seriously" underestimating our ability to change our lives for the better. People's understandings — that is, if the information they consume is credible — does grow over time. With this, their opinions are liable to change, as a result. Though, in certain climates, opinions may also become reinforced.

Orlando Community Continues To Mourn Deadly Mass Shooting At Gay Club Pulse. Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Nevertheless, and in tangent to the 2016 UC study, changing a person's opinions through argument is still an elusive and difficult feat — to such an extent that bulletproof facts may not even sway stalwart minds. Why? Because beliefs are largely emotion-based. However, the data from another 2016 study, this one conducted by researchers at Cornell University, suggests that people can change their perspective on an issue not just when exposed to new experiences that directly challenge the integrity of their prior beliefs, but also when they are presented an opposing viewpoint using calm language, specific examples, and phrasing that allows for exceptions, such as, "It could be the case that gay people are humans too and just want to be loved."

Much has changed in terms of LGBT visibility and rights since 2009. Perhaps more in the last 10 years alone than any other decade in the last century because of social media. If society, which is itself made up of individuals, can progress so much in this timeframe, it could be the case that Hart "evolved" right along with it. His recent apologies and his reported refusal to tell gay jokes, as of 2015, seem to support that.

All of this said, comedians in the modern day — it is quite clear — aren't above reproach from the court of public opinion. In 2018, for instance, Roseanne Barr's eponymous character was killed off her own rebooted show immediately after the actor posted a tweet likening Valerie Jarrett, a former Obama advisor, to both the Muslim Brotherhood and an ape. However, a direct comparison between Barr's tweets and Hart's falls short in that the latter could have, indeed, changed his views over the past decade, as Ellen DeGeneres alluded to on Friday, January 4, when she said, if Hart recommits to hosting the star-studded event, that spectators would see him "growing as a person."

Growth mindsets should be an attitude we esteem — they build up, as opposed to corrode. Since we have all posted stupid things on social media — that is to say, posted material that may have offended others — Kevin Hart hosting this year's Academy Awards ceremony could be a message of redemption for millions of people, who have, themselves, "evolved" over the past decade. In this way, it could be a "carrot" to further promote and strengthen gay alliances.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less