How Politics Breaks Our Brains, and How We Can Put Them Back Together

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The answer is to defeat liberals, not compromise with them. Politics is a Game of Thrones.

If you don’t win, your ideas will be ignored.

Politics is won and loss in the arena of ideas. Liberals are good about lying about their ideas and making them seem better than what they are.

Republicans-vs-Democrats

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Our tend­ency to­ward par­tis­an­ship is likely the res­ult of evol­u­tion—form­ing groups is how pre­his­tor­ic hu­mans sur­vived. That’s help­ful when try­ing to mas­ter an un­for­giv­ing en­vir­on­ment with Stone Age tech­no­logy. It’s less so when try­ing to foster a func­tion­al demo­cracy.

Un­der­stand­ing the oth­er side’s point of view, even if one dis­agrees with it, is cent­ral to com­prom­ise, poli­cy­mak­ing, and any hope for ci­vil­ity in civic life. So if our brains are blind­ing us to in­form­a­tion that chal­lenges our par­tis­an pre­dis­pos­i­tion, how can we hope ever to find com­mon ground? It’s a chal­lenge that is stump­ing both the elect­or­ate and the elec­ted of­fi­cials who rep­res­ent them. Con­gres­sion­al hear­ings are hear­ings in name only—op­por­tun­it­ies for politi­cians to grand­stand rather than talk with each oth­er. And the polit­ic­al dis­cus­sion, even among those well versed in the is­sues, largely ex­ists in par­al­lel red and blue uni­verses, men­tal spheres with few or no com­mon facts to serve as start­ing points.

But rather than des­pair, many polit­ic­al-psy­cho­logy re­search­ers see their res­ults as reas­on for hope, and they raise a tan­tal­iz­ing pro­spect: With enough un­der­stand­ing of what ex­actly makes us so vul­ner­able to par­tis­an­ship, can we re­shape our polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment to ac­cess the bet­ter an­gels of our neur­o­lo­gic­al nature?

So how might we per­suade people to set aside their blind par­tis­an­ship in oth­er con­texts? Let’s start with a for­um in which the stakes are in­fin­itely lower than at the Middle East peace talks but where the par­tis­an vit­ri­ol runs every bit as high: In­ter­net com­ment sec­tions.

Com­ment sec­tions bring out the worst in par­tis­an think­ing: ad hom­inem at­tacks, people who clearly will not be con­vinced of the oth­er side, and stub­born ar­gu­ments where users talk past one an­oth­er, not with each oth­er. But maybe the struc­ture of com­ment sec­tions, rather than the people do­ing the com­ment­ing, has turned them in­to such in­tel­lec­tu­al sew­ers—and maybe a tweak or two at the mar­gins could clean them up.

“You can think of com­ment sec­tions as mini-in­sti­tu­tions,” Nyhan says. “It’s a con­text in which de­bate is hap­pen­ing, and if we can help people be more civil to­ward each oth­er, that might be a pos­it­ive step.”

Talia Stroud is try­ing to take that step. As the dir­ect­or of the En­ga­ging News pro­ject at the Uni­versity of Texas (Aus­tin), she leads a re­search group with the goal of mak­ing the In­ter­net more civil for polit­ics. “It’s un­be­liev­ably dif­fi­cult,” she says.

One way to start, her re­search sug­gests, is to ree­valu­ate the “like” but­ton, a com­mon fea­ture on com­ment threads. In the con­text of a polit­ic­al-news art­icle, “lik­ing” a com­ment or a post could ac­tiv­ate us-versus-them think­ing. “Lik­ing” something means you as­so­ci­ate with it. It re­minds people of their par­tis­an­ship. “So we did a study where we ma­nip­u­lated wheth­er it was a ‘like’ but­ton or a ‘re­spect’ but­ton,” Stroud says. She found that people were more will­ing to ex­press “re­spect” for ar­gu­ments that ran counter to their own.

It’s “not ‘I like what you’re say­ing’ but ‘I re­spect it’ even though I might not agree with you,” she says. “That showed some of the power of really small things and changes that could be eas­ily im­ple­men­ted.”

Continue reading: nationaljournal

We need to defeat liberalism and allow freedom to thrive.

It would be nice to actually be able to discuss something without having to defeat liberal lies.

About Author

Jay Taylor is Senior Vice President of Political Strategy at Liberty Alliance and a graduate of West Virginia University with an MBA and Computer Engineering degrees. Jay oversees the popular websites Conservative Byte and Patriot Update.

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