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Sender: Steven H Johnson
Subject: Re: People don't think straight + Politics makes us stupid!
Date: Thu, Aug 14, 2014
Msg: 101076

Hi Sandy, everyone -

Can bridge-building soften tribal antagonisms? Good question. Tribal loyalties are everywhere. We indeed fashion our identities around our ideas and our loves. Could be anything. Cats. Quilting. Gardening. Partisan politics. Football loyalties.

But civic loyalties, and identities based on our loyalties, represent a special case, one that deserves a many-sided look.

Let me come at this as a deeper issue of universal virtues and vices. As citizens, we share in the trusteeship of our communities/states/nation. As trustees, we have special responsibilities. This is a cause-and-effect world, and it's important for us to develop values that connect us to the world's realities and the responsibilities they bring.

It doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things whether I love the Yankees or hate them, but it does matter whether I think government should be financed primarily with taxes or primarily with borrowed money.

Irrespective of the connections we're able to form across tribal boundaries, I think all of us, on all parts of the spectrum, have a civic responsibility to see ourselves as careful thinkers, first, before we label ourselves as conservatives or liberals or whatever.

Careful reasoning is an essential civic virtue, and we suffer from its absence. On every issue of substance that I've immersed myself in, I have been struck by the prevalence of careless thinking. Careless thinking by liberals. Careless thinking by conservatives. Building bridges between liberals with superficial views and conservatives with superficial views won't do a lot to help America find its way.

Best to everyone,

Steve Johnson website in progress: thoughtfulpatriotism.com

On Jul 6, 2014, at 10:16 AM, Sandy Heierbacher wrote:

> Hi, Transpartisan List! I just posted something on the NCDD blog to add to the conversations we're having on the NCDD listserv about how people make decisions, and how rationality does -- and doesn't -- play into it, as well as our ongoing discussions here on the Transpartisan List. > > I'd love to see some reactions to this article (and the reflections I shared) in the blog comments so your comments can be seen more broadly by those who aren't on these listservs. The post is up at http://ncdd.org/15490. I'm also pasting it below. > > I think Dan Kahan's research on how a more informed public has little effect on politics, polarization, and political opinions is extremely important for us to be aware of and to discuss. Kahan has found that "the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become." Please take a minute to read my post (I argue that NCDDers' work is a potential solution), and check out the article itself. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. > > Sandy Heierbacher > Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation > sandy@ncdd.org
* www.ncdd.org
* @ncdd & @heierbacher > > Join us at the next National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation this October 17-19 in the DC metro area! > Learn more at www.ncdd.org/ncdd2014 -- and follow the event on Facebook at http://www.tinyurl.com/ks4dr8g > > > Let's Discuss: How Politics Makes Us Stupid > Add Comment > Posted by Sandy Heierbacher | July 6th, 2014 > > There is a fascinating article up at Vox.com that I encourage all NCDD members and subscribers to our Transpartisan Listserv to give some thought to. My friend Jean Johnson at Public Agenda, one of NCDD's organizational members, alerted me to it last week, and it ties directly into conversations that are going on in both the NCDD Discussion list and theTranspartisan list. > > The article by Ezra Klein, How Politics Makes Us Stupid, talks about research that shows that a more informed public has little effect on politics, polarization, and political opinions. Instead, "Cutting-edge research shows that the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become." > > Researcher Dan Kahan's findings were that people accepted some information without any problem -- but in cases where their social standing and relationships were effected by their take on an issue, people dismissed information as faulty that didn't line up with their group's / tribe's / community's stances. This was true for partisans on both sides of the aisle. > > Here's an excerpt: > > Kahan is quick to note that, most of the time, people are perfectly capable of being convinced by the best evidence. There's a lot of disagreement about climate change and gun control, for instance, but almost none over whether antibiotics work, or whether the H1N1 flu is a problem, or whether heavy drinking impairs people's ability to drive. Rather, our reasoning becomes rationalizing when we're dealing with questions where the answers could threaten our tribe -- or at least our social standing in our tribe. And in those cases, Kahan says, we're being perfectly sensible when we fool ourselves. > > And another: > > Kahan calls this theory Identity-Protective Cognition: "As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values." Elsewhere, he puts it even more pithily: "What we believe about the facts," he writes, "tells us who we are." And the most important psychological imperative most of us have in a given day is protecting our idea of who we are, and our relationships with the people we trust and love. > > This has so many implications for dialogue and deliberation work -- about the role of experts and the effectiveness of expert knowledge, for instance. It makes me wonder if we emphasize enough the SOCIAL aspects of dialogue and deliberation. Are we doing enough to help people feel affinity for each other before launching into high-level deliberative discussions, for instance? Are we doing enough to change the culture of our communities, or are we just engaging those who are already receptive to considering different viewpoints? > > The article goes on to talk about how Washington has become a machine for making identity-protective cognition easier. There is lots of thought-provoking stuff in this article for transpartisans to consider! > > My big disappointment with this article is the conclusions at the end. Kahan has come up with "communications" solutions, like having the FDA think through what people's rational position-based arguments will be against a new policy, and communicate their decisions in a way that provides a rational response to those arguments. The author, Ezra Klein, is dissatisfied with that solution and refers to it as "spin" at one point, and he concludes that "If American politics is going to improve, it will be better structures, not better arguments, that win the day." > > To me, the whole article pointed to the need for people to develop connections and relationships -- strong ones -- to those outside of their tribe. Of course I see dialogue and deliberation as being key to that shift. Engaging in meaningful conversations about tricky issues like gun safety, climate change, and abortion with people you don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with is not just about thinking more deeply or more rationally about these issues than we tend to. It's also about seeing those who are "outside of your tribe" (those from the other side of the aisle, or those from a different class, race or generation than you) in a different light. > > This is one of the reasons NCDD has always encouraged "dialogue" to happen before "deliberation" takes place. Thought these terms (and the practices they represent) often blur, dialogue centers around storytelling, relationship-building and a focus on building understanding before any kind of decision or action is on the table. Deliberation tends to focus more on understanding issues, options and trade-offs to set the stage for better decisions and judgments. (Dig in a little deeper on our What Are Dialogue & Deliberation? page.) > > We are in dire need of both dialogue and deliberation today, but combined, I believe these practices can work to counteract this "Identity-Protective Cognition" -- or at least help people begin to broaden their ideas about who is in their tribe. > > What do you think? Do you agree that "D&D" can counteract our tendency to only be effected by the evidence that leaves us unchanged and feeling safe with our social group? And if so, what are our shining examples of where this is happening? Where are you making inroads on this? And perhaps most importantly, what can be done to encourage your good work to become more widespread? > > > Sandy Heierbacher is the director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). She co-founded NCDD in 2002 with her husband Andy Fluke. Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy. > > Connect with me on Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Website > > To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: > http://lists.thataway.org/scripts/wa-THATAWAY.exe?SUBED1=TRANSPARTISAN&A=1 >

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