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

Arthur Brooks Suggests that Warm-hearted Relationships and Collective Focus on the Poor can Transcend Divisions

Arthur Brooks is the President of a think tank that promotes the benefits of capitalism from an economically conservative point of view.  He recently spoke at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica as to the virtues of capitalism, in one of 175+ talks he gives every year, to audiences both liberal and conservative, young and old.  In academic circles, he is known as someone who has researched philanthropy extensively, including the controversial finding that conservatives give more to the poor than liberals.  I’ve always wanted to hear more about his perspective.

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Much of his talk was devoted to the idea that if you want to alleviate poverty by the millions, you need a system like capitalism, which, while not perfect, has successfully moved millions of people around the world out of poverty.  He was well aware that his Santa Monica based audience may not share his conservative ideals and was explicit in that he felt that while liberals and conservatives may be far apart, they can be brought together through a shared moral goal, specifically attempting to uplift the lives of the poor.  Importantly, he emphasized that this has to come from a sincere place, rather than a by product of wanting to enrich oneself.

Indeed, the second theme he emphasized was that attachment to money, not wealth itself, is the cause of much suffering in the world and told stories about how relationships matter more.  For example, he cited work from self-determination theory scholars that showed that college students who made and attained relationship goals were happier than students who made and attained achievement related goals.  He noted how in his own work, he found that the more people gave to others, the happier they became and the richer they became as well.  And lastly, he answered a question in the crowd about how one of the most important things he learned from the Dalai Lama is that there is no division that “warm hearted relationships” cannot help one cross.

As someone who works in the political arena and attempts to bridge divisions, I couldn’t help but notice how his prescriptions for bridging our current political divides mirrors what we recommend here at Civil Politics.  It also mirrors a paper we are working on where we show how both liberals and conservatives care about others, just sometimes with a different emphasis on those closer or further to themselves, which can often lead to disagreements as to “who cares more?”.  Given how many talks Brooks gives in the course of a year and his bridge building work that should be of interest to readers of this site, I’d highly recommend seeing him speak at a venue near you, if you can.

- Ravi Iyer

 

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ClearerThinking.org Provides Online Tools to help people Challenge their own Beliefs & Biases

CivilPolitics’ mission is to educate the public on evidence-based methods for improving inter-group dialogue, with evidence defined broadly to include academic studiesempirical studies of community interventions, and also the practical wisdom learned by organizations that are bringing people together in the community.  As part of this last area of evidence, we are asking our partners in the community to answer a set of semi-standardized questions designed to help us learn the common themes that run through successful community work.  If you would like to have your organizations’ work profiled, please do contact us and/or fill out this form.  This is the seventh post in the series that details the experiences of Spencer Greenberg, who is the founder of ClearerThinking.org, which produced this political bias exercise, among other programs.

What is your group’s mission?

ClearerThinking.org’s mission is to help you make better decisions and avoid bias, both in your own life (e.g. your work, relationships and education), and in decisions you make that impact society at large (e.g. who you vote for and which policies you support).

What specific programs/events/curriculum do you run? Briefly describe what it is you do.

We create free courses, tools and tests designed to help you understand important findings from cognitive science, psychology, economics, and mathematics, and apply these findings in your day to day decisions. We are a non-partisan organization.  A

Our projects include:

Subtitling political debate videos (in collaboration with philosopher Stefan Schubert) to make you aware when factual inaccuracies, ovations, logical fallacies occur:

http://www.clearerthinking.org/#!the-2016-presidential-debates–subtitled/wt7g0

Our political bias test (also made in collaboration with Stefan Schubert), which helps you understand ways which your political views may be biased or inaccurate:

http://programs.clearerthinking.org/political_bias_test.html

Our Belief Challenger program, which walks you through two evidenced based techniques we developed for helping you challenging deeply held beliefs:

http://programs.clearerthinking.org/challenge_your_deepest_beliefs.html

Our Common Misconceptions test, which helps you understand whether you tend to be overconfident or underconfident, and teaches you about common misconceptions you may hold:

http://programs.clearerthinking.org/common_misconceptions.html

We have many other free tools, tests and programs as well.

What has worked well in your programs/events? If someone else wanted to replicate your programs, what specific advice would you give them as far as things to do to replicate your successes?

We have found that people love to learn about themselves, and therefore that offering tests can be a powerful way to make people more interested in important topics like bias and decision making.

What have you tried in your progams/events that has NOT worked well? If someone else wanted to replicate your programs, what advice would you give them as far as things to AVOID doing?

We find that people greatly prefer shorter online programs to longer ones, and therefore shorter programs may end up having larger impact overall.

Among the ideas listed on CivilPolitics’ website, based on psychological research, that have been suggested as ways to reduce intergroup divisions. Which of these ideas are reflected in the work you do?  

Providing Information on Common Goals/Threats, Reducing Certainty of Individual Beliefs, Helping people see their own bias and become motivated to reduce it.

We help people challenge their existing beliefs with programs such as our Belief Challenger program, and our Common Misconception Test.

Where can others learn more about what you do?

ll of our content is free, and available on our website: http://www.clearerthinking.org

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Increasing Reconciliation through the Acceptance of Apologies by one’s own group

Human beings are incredibly social animals, being one of the few species that cooperates in groups of thousands, and the only one that cooperates amongst individuals that don’t share the same genes, unlike bees or ants that breed with a queen.  Our ultra-sociality leads us to interesting behaviors where we follow the leads of others as in these social influence videos.

Social influence operates in the realm of reconciliation as well, as evidenced by this recent paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by Fiona Barlow and colleagues.  In this study, the novel way that social influence was used was to get members of a perpetrator group (non-Aboriginal Australians) to be more willing to reconcile by having members of a group apologize and then having other members of that same group (as opposed to the aggrieved other group) accept the apology.

From the article:

There is an implicit assumption that perpetrators’ moral image restoration following an intergroup apology depends on absolution from victims. In this paper we examine whether perpetrators can in fact look to other ingroup members for moral pardon. In Studies 1 and 4, Australians read an apology to Indian people for a series of assaults on Indian nationals in Australia. In Studies 2 and 3, non-Aboriginal Australians were provided with apologies offered on their behalf to Aboriginal Australians. In each study participants were told that other perpetrator group members had either accepted or rejected the apology. In line with predictions, when perpetrator group members heard that fellow perpetrators accepted an apology made to victims they felt morally restored, and consequently were more willing to reconcile. Effects were largely unqualified by apology quality (Studies 2–4), and held in the face of victim group apology rejection (Studies 3–4). We demonstrate that perpetrator group members can effectively gain moral redemption by accepting their own apologies, even qualified ones that have proved insufficient to victim groups.

How can readers of this site use this research?  As has been found in other research areas, seeing information that implies that relationships between groups are being improved, even in a somewhat illogical way, leads to the reality of relationships between groups being improved.  In this way, information about how divided and in-conflict any two groups are leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy as does information on how united and/or related two groups are.  Given that most groups have a mixture of this information available, it would seem useful to emphasize the later when one wants to increase the chances of reconcilliation and bridge moral divisions.

- Ravi Iyer

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On Trust, Conversation, & Relationships from the Institute for American Values’ David Blankenhorn

CivilPolitics’ mission is to educate the public on evidence-based methods for improving inter-group dialogue, with evidence defined broadly to include academic studiesempirical studies of community interventions, and also the practical wisdom learned by organizations that are bringing people together in the community.  As part of this last area of evidence, we are asking our partners in the community to answer a set of semi-standardized questions designed to help us learn the common themes that run through successful community work.  If you would like to have your organizations’ work profiled, please do contact us and/or fill out this form.  This is the sixth post in the series that details the experiences of David Blankenhorn, who is President of the Institute for American Values, which recently launched its Better Angels initiative, and which has been bringing people together across partisan divides for decades.

What is your group’s history in terms of getting involved with improving community relationships?

Almost all think tanks focus either on the activity of government or the needs of individuals. IAV is distinctive in that we focus on civil society – those relationships and associations that exist in between the government and the individual. While often overlooked by both think tanks and policy makers, civil society is a big thing. From families to Little League to church socials to community service projects, the relationships and institutions of civil society take up most of our time and fill up most of our lives. This sphere of society is a primary incubator of our cultural values. In the 1980s and 1990s, we brought together liberals and conservatives to help reframe the conventional wisdom about the two-parent home, the importance of fathers, and the role of marriage. In the 2000s, we brought together American scholars and scholars from the Arab and Muslim world for sustained engagements on international civil society. We worked to give voice to those who had previously been voiceless, such as children of divorce and donor-conceived persons. And we brought together diverse scholars for a fresh investigation of thrift, which is the ethic of wise use. And in the 2010s, we are equipping up to eight millions Americans to become depolarizers in their communities and networks and make an enduring impact on American government and society in favor of nonpolar principles and practices.

What specific programs/events/curriculum do you run? Briefly describe what it is you do.

Better Angels is not one organization, but rather a diverse group of leaders and co-sponsoring organizations working together to create a social movement. The three components of Better Angels are (1) scholarly research, (2) public argument, and (3) community organizing.

What We’ll Do: Years 1-3

In the area of public argument: annual reports to the nation, community presentations, articles and op-eds, media interviews, and a podcast series and other website-based and social media communications.

In the area of scholarly research: establishing the nation’s Leading Depolarization Indicators, contributing to the initiative’s educational and training curricula, convening interdisciplinary scholarly consultations on depolarization, publishing timely scholarly articles and reports, and evaluating the Better Angels initiative.

In the area of community organizing: recruiting and involving Better Angels affiliates, holding annual national conferences, creating, testing, and launching a national training program on nonpolar principles and practices, and helping to start new local initiatives for depolarization.

What has worked well in your programs/events? If someone else wanted to replicate your programs, what specific advice would you give them as far as things to do to replicate your successes?

We seek to be the change we want to make in the world, and our public conversation series models this.  Also, by partnering with grassroots organizations we are able to greatly increase the impact of our work.

What have you tried in your progams/events that has NOT worked well? If someone else wanted to replicate your programs, what advice would you give them as far as things to AVOID doing?

Stay true to mission and avoid mission creep.

Among the ideas listed on CivilPolitics’ website, based on psychological research, that have been suggested as ways to reduce intergroup divisions. Which of these ideas are reflected in the work you do?  

Providing Information on Common Goals/Threats, Reducing the Perception of “Zero-Sum” competition, (any win for one side = a loss for the other side), Showing Examples of Positive Relationships , Reducing the Perceived Differences Between Groups, Showing Examples of Cross-Group, Unexpected Agreement or Disagreement

Just as our topic is distinctive, so too is the way we approach our topic. Put simply, we aim to end the culture wars. Ending the culture wars does not mean putting an end to disagreements. Nor does it, or should it, mean splitting every issue down the middle. But it does mean putting an end to the paradigm of polarization that today so completely dominates, and so harmfully distorts, our entire public conversation.

That’s why we never call ourselves “liberal” or “conservative.” Why we focus so relentlessly on scholarly excellence aimed at reframing core issues. Why we insist on being interdisciplinary, bringing together scholars from across the human and natural sciences. Why we so often form diverse groups of scholars who work together over time, aiming for a fresh approach. Why we give such high priority to conversation and engagement. And why our signature product is the jointly authored public appeal or report.

What might you add to these ideas?

Patience and active listening to the other; the building of trust in relationships — when we wrote a public letter in 2001 to our counterparts in the Muslim and Arabic world (entitled, “What We Are Fighting For: A Letter from America”), they wrote us back in a public letter, surprised at having been addressed in a conversation. These letters were highly publicized in the Arabic world and in the Middle East and this led to the creation of our Shared Values project. The first year of the project was spent convincing the other side that we were trustworthy. It was only through patience and active listening of the other that we were able to accomplish this.

Where can others learn more about what you do?

http://www.americanvalues.org

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