Partisanship, Humility, and Epistemic Polarization

In Michael Lynch & Alessandra Tanesini (eds.), Arrogance and Polarization (. pp. 175-192 (forthcoming)
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Much of the literature from political psychology has focused on the negative traits that are positively associated with affective polarization—e.g., animus, arrogance, distrust, hostility, and outrage. Not as much attention has been focused on the positive traits that might be negatively associated with polarization. For instance, given that people who are intellectually humble display greater openness and less hostility towards conflicting viewpoints (Krumrei-Mancuso & Rouse, 2016; Hopkin et al., 2014; Porter & Schumann, 2018), one might reasonably expect them to be less polarized. We ran two studies designed to explore the relationship between various forms of humility and polarization. Our chief finding is that people who value humility are prone to what we are calling epistemic polarization—that is, judging the epistemic traits of contrapartisans negatively—which in turn plays a role in polarization more generally. Not only are contrapartisans deemed to have the wrong moral and political beliefs, they are also viewed as less humble and more arrogant, close-minded, and irrational. This makes matters even worse when it comes to the growing partisan divide. In light of our findings, we believe that the novel concept of epistemic polarization that we introduce is a promising target for further investigation.
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