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Randomized Controlled Trial Demonstrates Perspectives' Effectiveness among Adult Learners

CDI Team|March 16, 2022

Perspectives is excited to share the results of our first randomized controlled trial (RCT), confirming that the Perspectives online learning program has a significant positive impact on adult learners. This evidence affirms the important role Perspectives can play in reducing divisions within our society.

In mid-2021, Perspectives established a partnership with the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), a professional membership organization of more than 20,000 federal, state, and local finance officers across the US and Canada, all of whom are involved in planning, financing, and implementing governmental operations. GFOA leaders had launched a Rethinking Budgeting initiative, a project dedicated to experimenting with new ideas that might improve budget decision-making in local government. Since budgeting is an inherently political process, GFOA turned to Perspectives for a strategy to help combat political polarization and foster more constructive dialogue and decision-making among local government leaders. To address these goals, GFOA decided to run a pilot of the Perspectives online learning program for its members.

As part of this process, the Perspectives research team conducted our first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine the effectiveness of our program. This was an important milestone for Perspectives, as an RCT represents the gold standard in science because it controls for extraneous factors that can influence research results. In total, 284 GFOA members went through the full Perspectives program. Half were randomized to participate in Perspectives immediately, the other half waited 10 weeks before participating, and all participants completed a survey upon finishing the program.

The outcomes of the RCT provide strong experimental evidence of Perspectives' effectiveness and learner satisfaction. Results of the study showed that participating in Perspectives led to improvements in:

  • Intellectual Humility: the ability to recognize the limits of one’s knowledge and the possibility of being wrong;
  • Affective Polarization: dislike, distrust, and avoidance of those who hold different political views;
  • Dichotomous Thinking: the tendency to think in terms of extremes, with no middle ground.
Graphs depicting increased intellectual humility and decreased affective polarization and dichotomous thinking after using OpenMind

This evidence confirms that our work has a significant, positive impact on adult learners. This reduction in tension and ability to identify common ground can help people work together towards solutions of our common challenges. Our second RCT, focused on measuring our impact on college students, is currently underway, with results set to be released later this year. Together, this body of research will establish the impact and importance of Perspectives' programs at a time when the need for constructive dialogue in our nation is greater than ever before.

Looking to the future, we plan to reach even more civic leaders in collaboration with GFOA by making Perspectives an ongoing continuing education offering for GFOA members and partnering with the International City/County Managers Association and The National League of Cities. We believe reaching more government leaders will promote collaboration when difficult decisions need to be made within communities. Additionally, this research has renewed our commitment to provide Perspectives' tools to workplaces and other adult communities to spread these practices to a broad and diverse group of Americans. We also plan to disseminate our findings at academic conferences, in scientific journals, and in popular press outlets to help establish intellectual humility and constructive dialogue as civically indispensable.

To learn more about Perspectives, or to explore implementing the program at your workplace, please contact Mike Wasserman at [email protected]


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