APS Address on The Psychological Science Behind Hyperpartisanship and What to Do About It

This is the Association for Psychological Science (APS) James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award address presented by Diane E. Halpern. Much of Halpern’s research has been on critical thinking. In this address she chose the term hyperpartisanship to describe the condition underlying the current gridlock in the U.S. Congress. She said that it was similar to apartheid in the old South African regime. There blacks were segregated from whites and had their own restrooms and other facilities. This situation also existed in the southern states in the United States before the passage of Civil Rights legislation. In today’s congress, the two parties do not mix. They have their own rooms and there is little grounds for informal interactions among the two parties. This is a relatively new phenomenon that is concurrent with gridlock.

Diane recommended eight specific actions that can be done to remedy the problem of hypertisanship. Understand that these proposals are not just for the politicians. They are also for us citizens, and for the press.

Step 1. Make friends, or at least acquaintances, with people of the opposite political persuasion.

Try to understand why they think as they do, and try, regardless of how fruitless it might be, to acquaint them with your modes of thought.

Step 2. Stay informed. Extend the effort to keep up to date and to understand the positions of others. So don’t restrict yourself just to sources that reinforce your own opinions.

Step 3. Keep a cooperation scorecard. Scorecards are kept for fidelity to conservative positions, and to liberal positions. I know of no scorecard on politicians who make an effort to compromise. Should any reader be aware of such a scorecard, please inform us by leaving a comment. It would be extremely beneficial if the news media kept such scorecards and presented them along with the news. Were this done, I imagine that the gridlock would quickly crumble.

Step 4. Reward evidence-based thinking. Constantly ask what is the evidence supporting an advocated political position. Civilization advanced slowly and regressed until the beginning of science based on evidence derived from research, that the civilization advanced rapidly. Prior to that, progress was restrained by ideology. Unfortunately, ideology still exists and provides the fundamental basis for gridlock.

Step 5. Check accuracy. Check the accuracy of the evidence. The Washington Post features a Fact Check Column. There is also a website FactCheck.org, that is very good. But there are many facts to be checked. Readers are encouraged to present additional recommended sources for checking facts as comments to this post.

Step 6. Reject groupthink. Reward naysayers. Also reward flip-flopping. It indicates thought. I believe John Maynard Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Step 7. Follow the money. It has been said that the United States has the best Congress money can buy. Unfortunately, this is true, and we must ask whether a given politician’s position has bee bought.

Step 8. Think critically. Given that so much of Halpern’s research has been on thinking critically, this step was clearly obligatory. The problem is that thinking is a System 2 exercise and requires effort. Ideologies are fundamentally System 1 processes that provide easy political positions.

If you have not done so, please read the healthymemory blog post, “A Mindful Politician.” Even if you have read it, you might want to reread it.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: