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Study Shows The Constructive Dialogue Institute's Digital Program Reduces Toxic Polarization Among College Students

Category:Research
CDI Staff|August 10, 2022

NEW YORK, August 10, 2022 – The Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI) announced today the release of a new research study, Turning Down the Heat on Campus: How an online educational program can reduce polarization and improve dialogue in college classrooms, demonstrating the effectiveness of its online learning program in reducing polarization.

In recent years, political polarization has been on the rise, and hostility, outrage, and political dysfunction have become the norm, putting American democracy at risk. This divisiveness has swept across college campuses, making it increasingly difficult for students to learn about and discuss the most pressing issues of our time.

The Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI), co-founded by psychologist Jonathan Haidt and Caroline Mehl, developed an online educational program called Perspectives to equip students with practical skills for navigating conversations across differences.

CDI recently conducted a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard in research, to determine whether Perspectives is effective in improving dialogue. In the study, 755 college students from 3 colleges and universities across the U.S. were randomly assigned to a “treatment” condition (where they were assigned the Perspectives lessons) or to a “control” condition (where they were not assigned the lessons).

Across all key outcomes, students who completed the Perspectives program showed significant improvements, compared to the control condition. The study found:

  • 73% of students showed a decrease in polarization;

  • 51% of students were better able to recognize the limits of their knowledge;

  • 59% of students showed less negative attacking behaviors during conflict; and

  • 55% of students showed a decrease in negative evading behaviors during conflict.

"At a time when polarization is at an all-time high and Americans are losing faith in our democracy, these results are extremely encouraging," said Caroline Mehl, co-founder and executive director of the Constructive Dialogue Institute. "We believe Perspectives can have a profound impact on improving discourse in classrooms across the country and preparing the next generation for democratic citizenship."

Educators who seek to create supportive, engaging, and inclusive learning environments now have a proven tool they can easily embed into their curriculum – for free.

After completing the program, one student commented, “[I learned] how to better understand and appreciate others despite our differences. I also found that we are more alike than we are different when it comes to social and political issues.”

Read the in-depth results from the study by downloading the report.

Educators can learn more about bringing Perspectives to their classrooms for free by visiting www.constructivedialogue.org/solutions.

About the Constructive Dialogue Institute

Founded in 2017, the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to equipping the next generation of Americans with the mindset and skill set to engage in dialogue across differences. CDI seeks to help teachers, faculty, and administrators build learning environments that enable students to feel comfortable engaging with challenging topics so that real learning can occur. To accomplish this goal, CDI translates the latest behavioral science research into educational resources and teaching strategies that are evidence-based, practical, and scalable. Learn more at www.constructivedialogue.org.

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