Educating the Public on Evidence-based methods for improving inter-group civility.

Want to Reduce Political Extremism? Ask How Instead of Why

1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

 All participants began by rating their positions on six political policies. They then self-assessed their understanding of these policies using a series of 7-point rating scales. Next, some participants were asked to explain in detail how one of the policies works, while other participants were asked only to list the reasons they had for holding their position on that policy. Finally, all participants were asked to rerate both their understanding of the policy and their position on the policy. Participants repeated this process for one additional issue.

2. What They Found – Results:

Those who had had to explain how the political policies worked became less confident in their understanding of those policies than did those who had been asked to enumerate reasons for their positions. Further, participants reported more moderate attitudes towards the issues after giving mechanistic explanations, whereas enumerating reasons led to no such change in position extremity.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:

MTurk users- 50% male, 50% female

4. Study Name:

Fernbach et al., 2013, Study 2

5. Citation:

Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C. R., & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, XX(X), 1-8. doi:10.1177/0956797612464058

6. Link:

http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/todd_rogers/files/political_extremism.pdf

7. Intervention categories: 

generating mechanistic explanations, mTurk

8. Sample size:

112

9. Central Reported Statistic:

 “the decrement in understanding after enumerating reasons was smaller than the decrement following mechanistic explanation, as reflected by a significant interaction between judgment timing and condition, F(1, 110) = 6.64, p < .01, ηp2 = .057. With regard to extremity of positions, there was no change after enumerating reasons, F(1, 64) < 1, n.s. Moreover, as predicted, the change in position in the reasons conditions was smaller than in the mechanism conditions, as reflected by a significant interaction between judgment timing and condition on extremity scores, F(1, 110) = 3.90, p < .05, ηp2 = .034.”

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Self-Affirmation: The Key to Communication

1. What They Did – Summary:
          This study, primarily focused on effects of self-affirmation in the face of counterarguments and values, solely recruited participants who identified as “patriots.” Within a 2×2 study design, the patriots were placed into one of two separate conditions: a convictions salient condition and a rationality salient conviction. Both groups began by completing the beginning of a questionnaire entitled “Study on Personal Characteristics and Life Domains” in which they ranked a list of “personal characteristics and life domains” in terms of importance to their personal lives.

Next the comparison of affirmation vs. threat to ones identity or self was administered. Within the affirmation condition, the participants wrote down a memory or experience in which they felt their number one ranked “personal characteristic” (from the previously ranked list) was salient and why such a characteristic is considered most important to them.  Comparatively the threat condition retold a similar experience in which they unsuccessfully respected or failed to live up to their number one ranked “personal characteristic.”

Next the participants in both the affirmation and threat conditions were given rational vs. conviction salient questionnaires. Both sides were given claims of either rationality or conviction respectively, on which the participants had to self-report a level of agreement. (ex. “At least once in a while, I try to stand up for my values.”) After said questionnaire, the final portion of the study was administered through a fabricated, politically charged document describing terrorist groups arguing in favor of the rationality of the attacks of September 11th.  Reactions were asked of each of the patriots.

Researchers hope to find an interaction between the self-affirming prior exercises and openness to an opposed view of a politically charged topic. (Additional questions throughout the study such as attention to the reading, validity of the answers given and ones self-reported mood during the experiment were asked to understand potential biases in the data.)

 

2. What They Found – Results:
         Sure enough, researchers found a statistically significant interaction between the conviction salience and affirmation conditions. The “patriots” who were given the affirming prompts as well as conviction prompts were much more likely to accept or review the politically dissimilar article in higher regard than the comparison group. Moreover, threatened and conviction based “patriots” were less open to accepting the article. Such an interaction was not seen between the rationality salient “patriots”, affirming or threatened.
Ultimately, researchers were able to present data supporting self-affirmation as a means to increased openness to opposing ideas and values, a big step towards improving negotiations and communication.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:
43 total students: 21 male, 22 female.

4. Study Name:
Cohen et al. 2007, Study 2

5. Citation:
Cohen, Geoffery L., David K. Sherman, Anthony Bastardi, Lillian Hsu, Michelle McGoey, and Lee Ross. “Bridging the Partisan Divide: Self-Affirmation Reduces Ideological Closed-Mindedness and Inflexibility in Negotiation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93.3 (2007): 422-24. Ed.stanford.edu. Stanford University. Web.

6. Link:
https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/bridging_divides1.pdf.

7. Intervention categories:
perspective, self-affirmation, negotiation, MTurk

8. Sample size:
43

9. Central Reported Statistic:
“The predicted, Salience X Affirmation interaction was revealed, F(1, 38) = 4.62, p  = 0.38, MSE = 120.”
“The combination of affirmation and heightened salience of personal convictions promoted relatively less negativity and more balance in thoughts and feelings directed at the communication…. prompt[ing] greater recognition of the importance of the persuasive issue.

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Affirmation of Political Beliefs and Mood

1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

     Participants were paired face-to-face with a real person whom they believed to hold an opposing belief on an issue about which they cared deeply.  These people were, in fact, confederates — they played the role of an adversary and offered arguments and proposals to the study participants. 

Participants were first asked to write an essay either affirming or threatening a source of self-integrity unrelated to the issue at hand.   Upon completion of their essay, each participant was asked to indicate his or her mood on a scale from -3 (extremely negative or unhappy) to +3 (extremely positive or happy).

The participants were given some background material and copy of a proposed abortion bill.  They were told that they would be playing the role of a Democratic Party State Legislator and that they would be matched with someone playing the role of a Republican Party State legislator to debate the bill.  Half the participants had their beliefs affirmed while half had their beliefs threatened.  Within those two groups, half of the participants had salient convictions and half had non-salient convictions.  They then entered a room with their opposing legislator and debated the bill for 10 minutes before self-reporting their mood again.

2. What They Found – Results:

It was discovered in this study that there was no effect of affirmation of political beliefs on self-reported mood.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:

35 total undergraduate students —29 female and 6 male.

4. Study Name:

Cohen et al. 2007, Study 2

5. Citation:

Cohen, Geoffery L., David K. Sherman, Anthony Bastardi, Lillian Hsu, Michelle McGoey, and Lee Ross. “Bridging the Partisan Divide: Self-Affirmation Reduces Ideological Closed-Mindedness and Inflexibility in Negotiation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93.3 (2007): 422-24. Ed.stanford.edu. Stanford University. Web.

6. Link

https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/bridging_divides1.pdf.

7. Intervention Categories:

Contact, perspective

8. Sample Size:

35

9. Central Reported Statistic

“As in the previous two studies, there was no effect of affirmation on self-reported mood. The two-item premeasure of participants’ abortion attitudes was used as a covariate.”  It was found, though, that those who were placed in the “conviction salient” section of the study and had their beliefs affirmed made many more concessions to the other side than in any other section.

10. Effect Size:

 F < 1.3, p > .27

 

 

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Mechanistic Explanation Reduces Political Extremity Among Extremists

Mechanistic Explanation Reduces Political Extremity Among Extremists

 1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

Participants first provided their position on the six policies. They were then assigned to one of four conditions and asked to elaborate on one of two policies: cap and trade or flat tax. Depending on condition, participants were asked either to generate a mechanistic explanation or to enumerate reasons for their position. Next, participants were told that they would receive a bonus payment (20 cents; equal to 20% of their compensation for completing the experiment) and that they had four options for what they could do with this bonus payment. They could (a) donate it to a group that advocated in favor of the issue in question, (b) donate it to a group that advocated against the issue, (c) keep the money for themselves (after answering a few additional questions), or (d) turn it down.

The researchers tried to reduce political extremity by asking participants to elaborate with causal links. In the reason generation condition, participants were asked to write down all the reasons they have for their position on a policy, going from the most important to the least. In the mechanistic explanation condition, participants were asked to describe all the details they know about a policy, going from the first step to the last, and providing the causal connection between the steps.

2. What They Found – Results:

              Among participants who initially held a strong position, attempting to generate a mechanistic explanation attenuated their positions, thereby making them less likely to donate. On the other hand, enumerating reasons did not have the same moderating effect as mechanistic explanation.

3. Who Was Studied- Sample:

U.S. residents from MTurk

4. Study Name:

Fernbach et al., 2013, Study 3

5. Citation:

Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C. R., & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological science, 0956797612464058.

6. Link:

http://www.meteo.mcgill.ca/~huardda/articles/fernbach13.pdf

7. Intervention categories:

generating mechanistic explanation

8. Sample size:

101

9. Central Reported Statistic:

              As predicted, there was a significant interaction between initial extremity of policy support and condition, Waldman’s χ2(1) = 6.05, p = .014. At the lowest level of initial support, there was no difference in likelihood of donating between the mechanism and reasons conditions, Waldman’s χ2(1) = 1.78, p > .18, but at the highest level of initial support, participants in the reasons condition were more likely to donate than were those in the mechanism condition, Waldman’s χ2(1) = 6.74, p < .01.

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10. Effect Size:

Not reported

Study summary assignments:

Zhang Li

 

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Our goal is to educate the public about social science research on improving inter-group relations across moral divides.