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The Online Educational Program Perspectives Reduces Affective Polarization and Increases Intellectual Humility

Keith Welker, PhD, Mylien Duong, PhD, Macrina Dieffenbach, PhD, Jonathan Haidt, PhD|April 29, 2022

Solving the most pressing problems of our time requires broad collaboration across political party lines. Yet, the United States is experiencing record levels of affective polarization (distrust of the opposing political party) and epistemic fragmentation (individuals deriving their knowledge from conflicting sources). In response to these trends, we developed an asynchronous online educational intervention program rooted in psychological principles called Perspectives. In two studies with large samples (total N = 35,393), we examined Perspectives users’ scores on key outcomes at pre, post, and one-month follow-up. Study 2 included a quasi-experimental comparison group (N = 156). Across both studies, we found that Perspectives users experienced small to medium-sized decreases in affective polarization, small to medium-sized increases in intellectual humility (understanding the limits of one’s knowledge), and increases in sense of belonging. These positive changes were not evidenced in the comparison group and were largely maintained at one-month follow-up. These findings suggest promise for a brief and scalable intervention to reduce affective polarization and increase intellectual humility.

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