Balanced Pragmatism and Intellectual Humility Key to Bridging Political Divides, Studies Find

Two studies by the American Psychological Association found that people are more open to discussing divisive issues with individuals who present themselves as balanced, pragmatic, and intellectually humble. This approach increases respect and willingness to engage in conversations across political parties in the US and Germany.

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Balanced Pragmatism and Intellectual Humility Key to Bridging Political Divides, Studies Find

Balanced Pragmatism and Intellectual Humility Key to Bridging Political Divides, Studies Find

Two studies published by the American Psychological Association suggest that people are more open to discussing divisive issues with individuals who present themselves as balanced, pragmatic, and intellectually humble. This approach can lead to increased respect and willingness to engage in conversations across political parties in the US and Germany.

Why this matters: As political polarization continues to strain democracies worldwide, finding effective ways to bridge partisan gaps is crucial for fostering constructive dialogue and promoting understanding. By adopting balanced pragmatism and intellectual humility, individuals can play a vital role in mitigating the negative effects of polarization and promoting a more inclusive and respectfulpolitical discourse.

In the first study, researchers from Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted eight experiments with over 3,500 participants to test the effectiveness of political messages that relied on balanced pragmatism. They found that posts on social media combining balance with pragmatism were the most likely to increase participants' respect for a politician and their willingness to engage with them. Balanced pragmatism proved particularly effective in fostering respect when discussing highly divisive issues like immigration and abortion.

Curtis Puryear, Ph.D., one of the study's authors, noted, "It's easy for us to think about members of both parties as being completely biased in favor of their side. But what happens so much of the time is that people talk past each other or show more interest in pointing out the ridiculous things the other side is doing rather than actually finding solutions."

The second study, conducted by researchers from Philipps Universität Marburg, examined the role of intellectual humility in discussing controversial topics. Across four experiments with over 1,600 participants, they found that people were more willing to discuss divisive issues with those who expressed intellectual humility, recognizing the limits of their knowledge and the possibility of being wrong. Intellectual humility emerged as an important aspect in helping people engage in respectful discussions on divisive issues.

"Political discussions are important for a democratic society. When people have conversations, they can learn about new perspectives, reduce misunderstandings, and work together," said Larissa Knöchelmann, MSc, lead author of the intellectual humility study.

The findings from these studies underscore the importance of balanced pragmatism and intellectual humility in fostering constructive dialogue across political divides. By presenting oneself as open-minded, willing to find common ground, and acknowledging the limits of one's knowledge, individuals can increase respect and willingness to engage in healthy discussions, even on the most contentious issues. As political polarization continues to strain democracies worldwide, these approaches offer a promising path forward for bridging partisan gaps and facilitating understanding.

Key Takeaways

  • Presenting oneself as balanced and pragmatic increases respect and willingness to engage in conversations across political parties.
  • Balanced pragmatism is effective in fostering respect when discussing highly divisive issues like immigration and abortion.
  • Intellectual humility, recognizing the limits of one's knowledge, increases willingness to discuss divisive issues.
  • Combining balance with pragmatism and intellectual humility leads to more constructive dialogue and understanding.
  • Adopting these approaches can help bridge partisan gaps and promote a more inclusive and respectful political discourse.