Affective Polarization

NaBloPoMo 2020 – Today’s Lesson

How fun when learning occurs in clusters.  I linked to a recent Hidden Brain podast on my November 4 post.  It was the first time I had heard the term ‘affective polarization.’  Basically it means that we define and dislike people by only knowing their political party affiliation.  Today I listened to a series of theological essays addressing the same issue, from a Christian perspective.  I can’t wait to learn more.

Increasingly, we judge and relate to one another based on this one factor, which may or may not be important to how we define ourselves.  Apparently it’s a pretty new phenomenon, and escalating fast (surprise). 

The podcast discusses how we feel as and about people who are deeply involved in politics or not, and how that affects our attitudes and decisions about which relationships to enter, whom to hire, where to live, etc.  The essays explain further that it has to do with in- and out-group (tribal) identity, self-esteem, and meaning.  In 21st Century American culture, our politics identify us more than they used to—it has replaced religion in this way, perhaps.  But, he posits, while we have cultivated religious attitudes and practices “from dogmatism and fundamentalism toward a faith that is more tolerant, inclusive, peaceable and generous,” not so for politics.  Partisans on both sides are basically fundamentalists, and that carries important implications for violence— the new holy wars.

This may all seem rather alarmist.  But I bet anyone who hears the podcast or reads the articles will recognize and relate to much of their content.  The best outcome from consumption of these pieces will be a little more awareness, and a desire to monitor and modify how we relate, for the better.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

3 thoughts on “Affective Polarization

  1. I think you would really enjoy reading I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers. They talk about the assumptions we make about other people, and the importance of “Taking Off Your Jersey” (Red vs. Blue). We view ourselves as complex and nuanced, but don’t extend that grace to others.

    Liked by 1 person

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