The science of how to get along

May 23, 2012 | By | Reply More has a mission to use rigorous science to help others, including politicians, to get along.  The mission is “to help you find academic scholarship that illuminates the causes and consequences of political civility and incivility.”

And here’s more, from the “Moral Psychology” page:

At CivilPolitics, most (but not all) of us believe that direct appeals to people to behave civilly will have very limited effects. We take a more social-psychological approach to the problem of intergroup conflict. We are more interested in legal, systemic, and policy changes that will, for example, change the ways that the “teams” are drawn up (e.g., in elections), and supported (e.g., financially). We want to change the playing field and the rules of the game, in the hopes that players in the future (citizens as well as politicians) will be less likely to demonize each other, mischaracterize each others’ motives, and refuse (on moral grounds) to engage in negotiations, interactions, and cooperative enterprises that would serve the nation’s interests.

Check out the “Social Psychology” page, which contains this advice (with lots of explanatory links).

1) Partisans are likely to blame the people on the other side, rather than the situation, for incivility.

2) Zero-sum conflicts generally lead to incivility, while superordinate goals promote civility.

3) Positive contact reduces animosity between groups.

4) Partisans have inaccurate beliefs about their political adversaries

5) Ideology biases our interpretation of scientific facts.

It seems that anyone getting involved in politics should be required to read this entire page, including all of the links. American politicians of all stripes have fallen into most or all of these traps (I’m talking to you liberals out there too), and doing so makes them dysfunctional and/or dangerous. It turns out the instinct and intuition will not prepare you or guide you to work with others, especially if you perceive those others to be extreme or if you consider politics to be a zero-sum game. There are ways around these traps, but many people don’t know these techniques unless they consciously study them, including a review of the experiments listed at this site that show how amazingly predictable we are in social hostile environments.

I’ve followed several of the many resource links, and I’m already convinced that this is an excellent website where I’m going to spend a substantial amount of time in the future. Civil Politics is run by Jonathan Haidt, Matt Mtyl and Ravi Lyer, and includes more than a dozen contributors.


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Category: cognitive biases, Ingroup/Outgroup, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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