RWAP: Sean Freeder

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
12:00pm to 1:30pm
119 Moses Hall, Harris Room
UC Berkeley

"Malice and Stupidity: Outgroup Motive Attribution and Affective Polarization"


Affective polarization has steadily increased over the past decades, weakening voters’ willingness to cross party lines, support bipartisan compromise, and consider information from outgroup sources. Existing scholarship on the reason for this increased hostility has focused on growing differences in what people want, or citizens' beliefs about who members of the outgroup tend to be; I advance negative motive attribution as an explanation missed by scholars. Across several studies, I find that a majority of the public believes those who disagree with them do so for indefensible reasons — greed, bigotry, incompetence, hunger for power — and that holding such beliefs decreases outgroup affect. Then, I use a number of experimental interventions to show that these beliefs can be changed, and in turn used to ameliorate outgroup hostility. These findings highlight a new approach towards understanding affective polarization, and possible ways to combat it going forward.