Committing Sociology

jim_jones_201-003Whenever you get a group of people together who share certain basic assumptions, there’s a (seemingly) natural tendency for the group to gravitate toward the most uncompromising, extreme, strident, fundamentalist, hard-core positions. Social psychologists call this tendency group polarization. It happens on juries with some regularity. It explains why the Tea Party became so insane, so deeply out of touch with the needs and views of the average American voter. And it explains why the Bush Administration invaded Iraq without an exit strategy (they stopped inviting people who disagreed with their assumptions—people like Colin Powell—to the planning meetings).

MansonLook, don’t get me wrong, there’s no harm in group polarization if you’re just having fun, or brainstorming. But if you actually want to change the world, if you actually want to communicate (and be relevant), it’s a tendency that must be actively resisted. In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are…

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