Nudging Receptiveness to Opposing Views

June 2022

Julia Minson, Harvard Kennedy School
Frances Chen, University of British Columbia

A pernicious problem confronting many human societies is people’s unwillingness to engage with views that they do not share, especially ones that they find antithetical to their most dearly held and identity-relevant beliefs. Lack of such willingness is particularly insidious because it prevents groups from effectively solving entire classes of other social coordination problems. Although prior research has documented a multitude of psychological and decision biases that prevent people from thoughtful and civil engagement with ideological opponents, there has been much less research proposing and testing low-cost, robust, scalable solutions.

We seek to convene researchers and practitioners who have studied and written about partisan conflict and receptiveness to opposing views in order to begin a discussion around a set of potential interventions for increasing civil discourse across ideological divides. The seminar will focus on identifying interventions grounded in empirical research from psychology, economics, decision research, and political science – disciplines that have illuminated root causes of people's reluctance to engage with ideological opponents. The goal of this particular conversation, however, is to go beyond understanding the causes of the problem and explicitly engage with developing solutions. Thus, the key deliverable will consist of a set of proposed interventions for overcoming partisan conflict, along with designs for randomized controlled trials to test their effectiveness. In order to extend the impact of the seminar beyond the duration of the meeting itself, its structure will seek to create new collaborations in order to enable rapid testing and deployment of interventions.