contention

The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards

Monday, October 26, 2020

The pursuit of "consensus" often leads people to censor themselves, put things on "the shelf," or engage in forms of Groupthink that is unattractive to those who emphasize the pursuit of truth over the pursuit of group cohesion.

This is common to large organizations, political parties, religions, scientific fields, and so on. In LDS culture, we see it happen both within and without the Church. Groupthink dominates both Book of Mormon Central and Mormon Stories, for example. Neither group tolerates different ideas if those ideas threaten their respective sources of income and influence.

Polarization is becoming more prevalent all the time because of technology and sophisticated psychology. 

This analysis suggests the problem is more deep rooted than we usually realize.


Why Social Media Is So Good at Polarizing Us

Mathematicians are teaming up with political scientists to create models of how social media divides us, and results suggest at least one popular solution might actually make the problem worse


By 

One of the challenges of studying polarization is defining polarization.

There are different kinds. One, known as affective polarization, measures how much people of one party dislike members of the opposite party. Various measures of affective polarization have shown that over the past 60 years, it’s gotten much worse. Another kind, known as ideological polarization, measures how far apart members of each party are on all issues, such as abortion and gun control. This kind of polarization has, contrary to what you might think, remained relatively stable over time.

In other words, many Americans hate each other more than ever, but they don’t disagree with each other any more than they used to....

One such model, just published by researchers at Northwestern University, incorporates recent, and in some ways counterintuitive, findings by political scientists. One, from a 2018 study by Dr. Bail, is that when you repeatedly expose people on social media to viewpoints different than their own, it just makes them dig in their heels and reinforces their own viewpoint, rather than swaying them to the other side. (Dr. Bail’s study was conducted on U.S. users of Twitter, but other studies have begun to replicate it, he adds.)

In the past, social-media giants have been accused of only showing us content that agrees with our preconceptions, creating echo chambers or “filter bubbles.” The proposed solution, trumpeted by pundits of every stripe, was to change the social-media algorithms so that they would show us more content from people who disagree with us.

According to David Sabin-Miller and Daniel Abrams, creators of this latest model, exposing us to viewpoints different from our own, in whatever medium we encounter them, might actually be part of the problem. The reason is probably intuitive for anyone who has the misfortune to spend an unhealthy amount of time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or even cable news. (During the pandemic, that’s more of us than ever.) Because social media and Balkanized TV networks tend to highlight content with the biggest emotional punch—that is, they operate on the principle that if it’s outrageous, it’s contagious—when we’re exposed to a differing view, it often takes an extreme form, one that seems personally noxious. 

Mr. Sabin-Miller and Dr. Abrams, both mathematicians, call this effect “repulsion.” In addition to the “pull” of repeatedly seeing viewpoints that reinforce our own, inside of our online echo chambers, repulsion provides a “push” away from opposing viewpoints, they argue. Importantly, this repulsion appears to be a more powerful force, psychologically, than attraction to our own side of a debate.



The end.