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

Blue State Republicans as a path towards compromise

Last night, the tossup senate races broke sharply toward the Republican party, which Republicans winning in two states where President Obama won in 2008 and 2012: Iowa and Colorado.  Research shows that one way that conflict can be ameliorated is when the boundaries between competing groups are blurred.  Indeed, if you look at some of the rhetoric from the victors, you can see that there may indeed be the seeds of compromise.

From this Denver station article:

Gardner, who represented a conservative fourth U.S. House district on the state’s eastern plains, courted the political center to win. He highlighted that strategy in his acceptance speech.

“The people of Colorado, voters around this state had their voices heard. They are not red. They are not blue. But they are crystal clear. Crystal clear in their message to Washington, D.C.,: Get your job done and get the heck of out of the way,” he said.

On the other side of the aisle, Red State Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia have led some of the most significant compromises, again by blurring the familiar political lines.  In contrast, those senators who are least eager to compromise often seek to reinforce the differences between groups, exacerbating the partisan divides by seeking a clear contrast.

Mitch McConnell, the new Senate Majority Leader, specifically went out of his way to strike a tone of compromise in his victory speech and talked about the “obligation to work together” with the opposite side toward solutions to our common problems.  Let’s hope that, as research would suggest, a less homogenous Republican Senate caucus (and eventually a less homogenous Democratic Senate caucus) leads to that vision becoming a reality.

- Ravi Iyer

 

 

 

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Changing Children’s Attitudes Through Story Time

In recent years, tensions have emerged in the south of England over the integration of refugees into mainstream British society. One way of easing this process may be ensuring that refugee children encounter a welcoming environment when they enter British schools. The present research tested an intervention that aimed to improve English schoolchildren’s attitudes towards refugees via an “extended contact effect.” This effect suggests that attitudes towards outgroup members can be improved through vicarious experiences of friendships between ingroup and outgroup members. In the current study, this was achieved by having children read and discuss stories featuring friendships between English and refugee children. While extended contact has been shown to be effective for adults and older children, little research has been done with children ages 5 to 11.

1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

Researchers were interested in testing three different versions of the extended contact hypothesis. In one condition, children read stories that emphasized the individual qualities of the refugee characters, and then discussed these characters’ similarities and differences. The idea here was to encourage the children to think of refugees as unique individuals rather than homogenous members of an outgroup.

In another condition, the children read stories in which the refugee characters attended the children’s actual school, offering the English and refugee children a common identity. While the goal of the previous condition was to emphasize the uniqueness of each outgroup member, here the objective was to give outgroup members ingroup status by expanding the boundaries of the ingroup.

The third condition was similar to the common identity condition, except the intention here was to give all children a shared group with which to identify without minimizing their subgroup (English or refugee) identity. Thus, the stories read emphasized both the shared identity between the English and refugee children (as students attending the same school) and their differences.

1-2 weeks after the interventions, children were interviewed to assess their attitudes towards both ingroup and outgroup members. They were presented with a series of positive and negative traits (e.g. “hardworking) that they were asked to match with pictures of stick people representing different proportions (none, some, most, all) of group members, both English and refugee. The researchers were also interested in the children’s intended behavior. They presented them with 2 scenarios—one featuring an English child, and another with a refugee child—and asked the children to indicate how much they’d like to play with that child, have that child spend the night, etc.

2. What They Found – Results:

Children in all extended contact conditions expressed more positive attitudes towards refugee children than did children in the no-stories control group. As the researchers had predicted, attitudes were most positive in the dual identity condition. Children in the dual identity condition who did not have strong ties to their English identities also expressed more positive intended behaviors towards refugee children.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:

253 White British children (116 boys, 137 girls) from 10 elementary schools, ages 5 to 11 years, from south-east England

4. Study Name:

Changing Children’s Intergroup Attitudes Toward Refugees: Testing Different Models of Extended Contact

5. Citation:

Cameron, L., Rutland, A., Brown, R., & Douch, R. (2006).  Changing Children’s Intergroup Attitudes Toward Refugees: Testing Different Models of Extended Contact. Child Development, 77, 1208-1219.

6. Link:

http://kar.kent.ac.uk/4163/1/CameronetalCD2006.pdf

7. Intervention Categories:

Extended Contact

8. Sample Size:

253

9. Central Reported Statistic:

“outgroup attitude in the extended contact conditions was significantly higher than in control, t = 2.89, p < .01.”

“In low identifiers there was a significant main effect of condition, F(3,104) = 2.75, p < .05, MSE = 1.26. Planned contrasts revealed that control did not differ from the three extended contact variables (C1: t = 1.07, ns), but dual identity was, as before, significantly higher than the other two extended contact conditions (C2: t = 2.67, p < .01)”

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Political Partisanship Without the Politics

Polarization of American partisans continues to increase.  Liberals and conservatives alike have obvious contempt for opposing partisans — this is universally demonstrated by implicit, explicit and behavioral indicators.  Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westood of Stanford University and Princeton University, respectively, designed a set of four studies — titled “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization” to further investigate political dichotomy in America.

1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

Study participants completed selection tasks.  Each participant was randomly assigned to one of two tasks that modeled existing scholarship assessments.

Participants in the first task had to choose to give a scholarship to either a Democrat or Republican high schooler.   Those in the second task had to choose between a European American and an African American candidate.  The academic and extracurricular achievements of each candidate were randomly varied, which allowed the study to measure the effects of partisan and racial bias without qualification confounds and compare the relative strength of in-group preference.

2. What They Found – Results:

Despite the lack of direct political connection, this study found that the party cue had the biggest impact on candidate selection.  Approximately 80% of participants, Democrats and Republicans alike, who participated in the partisan design selection chose the candidate who identified with their own party – even when the candidate from the opposing party was more highly qualified.  There was no evidence that those who participated in the partisan design took academic achievement into account.

Participants assigned to the race design selection showed relatively weak effects of in-group bias and tended to select candidates based on qualification instead of race.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:

SSI

4. Study Name:

Iyengar and Westwood et al. 2014, Study 2

5. Citation:

Iyengar, Shanto & Westwood, Sean J. (2014).  Fear and loathing across party lines: New evidence on group polarization. http://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2014/iyengar-ajps-group-polarization.pdf

6. Link:

http://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2014/iyengar-ajps-group-polarization.pdf

7. Intervention Categories:

Perspective

8. Sample Size:

1,021

9. Central Reported Statistic:

“Democrats were more likely to select a fellow Democrat (b=1.04, p<.01) and Republicans were more likely to select a fellow Republican (b=1.60, p<.001).”

10. Effect Size:

The probability of a partisan selecting an out-party candidate never rose above .3.

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How Deeply Ingrained in our Heads is Partisan Affect?

Polarization of American partisans continues to increase.  Liberals and conservatives alike have obvious contempt for opposing partisans — this is universally demonstrated by implicit, explicit and behavioral indicators.  Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westood of Stanford University and Princeton University, respectively, designed a set of four studies — titled “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization” to further investigate political dichotomy in America.

1. What They Did – Intervention Summary:

Study 1 assessed implicit partisan affect and anchored it to implicit racial affect. used two different brief versions of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure implicit racial affect and implicit partisan affect.

Participants first completed four rounds of a BIAT created by the researchers to measure their implicit attitudes.  Their “D-scores” were calculated by subtracting their mean response times when pairing a Democratic mascot with “good”.  Positive D-scores (between 0 and 2) indicated greater positive affect for Republicans and inverse responses times indicated greater positive affect for Democrats.

To further validate the tests, the relationship between partisan D-score and a difference in feeling (regarding Democrats and Republicans) thermometer test was examined.

Finally, participants’ scores on the partisan BIAT and the race BIAT were compared.

2. What They Found – Results:

As was expected, they found that partisan D-scores corresponded closely with which party a participant self-identified with.  ”Strong Republicans”, for example, produced the most bias in favor of Republicans.

The thermometer test validation, despite a small amount of divergence, correlated strongly (r=.418) with the D-scores.

Racial affect BIATs showed a substantial black-white implicit bias, but the race effect size was not nearly as strong as the party effect size.  When compared to party BIATs, it was discovered that negative associations of opposing parties are faster which, in this case, means more automatic and/or stronger, than negative associations of African Americans.

This tells us that, since racial identity is, obviously, acquired at or before birth and racial attitudes are deeply ingrained, for partisanship to exceed race, its underlying hostility must be immense.

3. Who Was Studied – Sample:

SSI

*In order to capture racial affect among non-whites, African Americans were oversampled.

4. Study Name:

Iyenger and Westwood et al. 2014, Study 1

5. Citation:

Iyengar, Shanto & Westwood, Sean J. (2014).  Fear and loathing across party lines: New evidence on group polarization. http://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2014/iyengar-ajps-group-polarization.pdf

6. Link:

http://pcl.stanford.edu/research/2014/iyengar-ajps-group-polarization.pdf

7. Intervention Categories:

Observation

8. Sample Size:

2,000

9. Central Reported Statistic:

“The spread between Democrats and Republicans on the partisan D-score was massive… (p<.001).”

10. Effect Size

D(Republican) = .27, D(Democrat) = -.23

 

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