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On Opinion

Author: Parlia

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Where do your opinions come from?

Do we ‘think’ our world views, or ‘feel’ them? And what do our beliefs mean for politics and society?

In each episode of On Opinion, Turi Munthe asks thought leaders to share their perspectives on why we think what we think and what it means for the world today, discussing everything from the war on truth to how to argue with people you hate.

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39 Episodes
S2 E23: The Evolution of Cooperation“Every multicellular being is a collective that operates as a whole - the individual is an ‘invention’ of evolution”Cooperation is at work up everywhere - from our ‘selfish’ genes working together in the genome, through to the democratic societies that regulate our collaboration.Cooperation is what distinguishes us most strikingly from our evolutionary cousin, the Chimpanzee. It is what allowed us safely to descend from the tree canopy into the savannah. It is what defended us from tyrants, helped us build agrarian societies, and forms the basis of our sense of justice and morality.But cooperation has a dark side: we collaborate to better compete. How we regulate that dark force is key to our survival.“Collaboration is the essential ingredient of and largest threat to our success”Listen to Nichola explain:The biological evolution of cooperation in humansHow we compare with other great collaborators: bees, ants and birdsThe evolution of society: from egalitarian to feudal to democraticWhy loneliness is physiologically harmfulWhen cooperation becomes murderousWhy evolution gave us the Tragedy of the CommonsHow the invention of Institutions changes the rules of the evolutionary gameWorks cited include:Christopher Boehm’s Reverse Dominance HierarchyPeter Turchin and his Z-CurveRichard Dawkins’ Selfish GeneRead the Full TranscriptNichola RaihaniNichola Raihani is a professor in Evolution and Behaviour at UCL, where she leads the Social Evolution and Behaviour Lab. She is the author of The Social Instinct: how cooperation shaped the worldOn Opinion is a member of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
### S2 E22: Psychometrics: measuring ourselves> _“Psychometrics is one of the most important or influential areas of applied psychology”_Psychometrics, the study of personality and ability, began with the Chinese Imperial Court exams, which measured intelligence and civility, as well as archery and horse-riding. Via the East India Company, testing - of intelligence as well as psychological traits - spread to the British and French civil service, and then onwards to education. Psychometrics gave us exams.John Rust, one of the world’s foremost authorities, walks us through the history and politics of psychometrics, from eugenics and the fraught question of race and IQ, through to the four core psychographic theories of personality: Freud’s psychoanalysis, Carl Rogers’ Humanistic Theory of person, the Social Learning approach, to the Genetic (Rust’s own focus). In the process, he tackles the very politics of testing, psychometry’s complicated place in the world of psychology, and the validity of Myers-Briggs and OCEAN tests.> _“It's a remarkably important area of science. If we can get it right, we can do lots of good. If you get it wrong, there can be a disaster.”_Listen to John explain:- The origins of psychometrics- The problem with Evolutionary Psychology- The Naturalistic Fallacy- Myers-Briggs and Big 5 Theories of Personality- The Flynn Effect - The ethics of psychometrics in the age of Big Data and ‘Surveillance Capitalism’Works cited include:- Sir Francis Galton’s [Lexical Hypothesis]( Raymond Cattell and his [16 Personality Types]( James Flynn’s [work on IQ and race]( the [**Full Transcript**] ([**John Rust**]( Rust is the founder of The Psychometrics Centre and an Associate Fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. He is also a Senior Member of Darwin College. On Opinion is a member of [The Democracy Group] (, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.Listen to Out Of Order.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“Dehumanisation both justifies and motivates acts of extraordinary violence - but it is not in any sense an innate disposition”Here lies the terrifying quandary: if humans are the most social of all primates and mammals, if our sociality and capacity for collaboration is at the very heart of our success as a species, how are we able to engage in such acts of hideous violence towards each other?“Dehumanisation is a psychological response to political forces”David Livingstone Smith explains how two key ideas underpin the psychology of Dehumanisation: Psychological Essentialism and Hierarchical Thinking, false heuristics that are nevertheless deeply embedded in all of us.But he goes further. To understand the depths of cruelty and humiliation, the ritualistic violence, the near-religious ecstasy of moral purpose that often comes with genocide and torture, we need to understand the mind of the Perpetrator.To the perpetrator, their victim is both human and non-human, vermin and all-powerful. More than any physical danger, the victim represents a metaphysical cognitive threat - and becomes a monster to be exterminated.“When we say ‘we must put them in their place’, it’s a deep idea: we want to put ‘them’ in their metaphysical place”Listen to David explain:The metaphysical threat of the ‘other’The Uncanny - and its threat to our sense of purity and orderDehumanisation as psychosisWhy cruelty and humiliation are such intrinsic elements of dehumanisationWhat we can do to fix it.“We are disposed to have difficulty harming one another, and yet…”Works cited include:Arthur O. Lovejoy’s Great Chain of BeingErnst Jentsch on The Psychology of the UncannyMasahiro Mori’s Uncanny ValleyMary Douglas’ Purity and DangerNoel Carroll and The Philosophy of HorrorRead the Full TranscriptDavid Livingstone SmithDavid Livingstone Smith is professor of philosophy at the University of New England. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of London, Kings College. He is the author of many books, including On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How To Resist ItOn Opinion is a member of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.Listen to The Science of Politics.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“Dehumanisation is a psychological process, and every psychological process can be used for good or bad.”Humanisation (attributing motive and consciousness) and dehumanisation are flip sides of common cognitive processes, what Harris calls “Flexible Social Cognition”, which he has measured via fMRI scans.“I think of dehumanization much more as an everyday psychological phenomenon”Neurologically, dehumanisation is the ability to regulate one’s own social cognition. We grant more ‘humanity’ to our friends than the bad driver in front of us. And in certain professional contexts, dehumanising is a good thing: to small degrees, doctors do it their patients better to treat them.But thinking of dehumanisation as a scale provides a new frame through which to look at sexual objectification and the commoditisation of labour, all the way through to the Holocaust and the Slave Trade.Because while dehumanisation isn’t the cause of atrocities, it is always used to justify them.“Emotions like anger and fear are much more energising when it comes to committing these human atrocities. What dehumanisation does is it allows you to justify why the behaviour has occurred…”Listen to Lasana explain:Theory of MindSocial NeuroscienceThe role of Stereotypes in cognitionThe Evolutionary reasons for “Flexible Social Cognition”And how we can fight Dehumanisation - societally, and as individuals.“We need to re-engineer our social systems”Works cited include:Dignity Takings and Dehumanization: A Social Neuroscience PerspectiveWhy Economic, Health, Legal, and Immigration Policy Should Consider DehumanizationHow social cognition can inform social decision makingRead the Full TranscriptLasana HarrisDr Lasana Harris is Senior Lecturer in Social Cognition at UCL. Lasana’s research focuses on social, legal and economic decision making and how thinking about what other people are thinking affects those types of decisions. His work explores dehumanisaton, how people fail to consider other people’s minds, and anthropomorphism, extending minds to things that don’t have them.On Opinion is a member of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.Listen to Democracy MattersMore on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“We often treat privacy as a quick fix for much deeper social problems - like prejudice and bias”Our lives are constantly documented. Our Facebook likes, our Tweets and even our credit card statements all reveal information about us. But what about our faces?Michal Kosinski has demonstrated that off-the-shelf, commercially available AI can analyse facial images and determine sexuality and political preferences with up to 91% accuracy.If our opinions and preferences are written into our very faces, what does that tell us about the immutability of our values and behaviours?And what does that mean for privacy?Listen to Michal explain how we must learn to live in a Post-Privacy world.“We should just not be making judgements about people based on their faces, regardless of whether those judgments are accurate or not.”Works cited include:Facial Recognition and Political OrientationFacial Recognition and Sexual OrientationMichal KosinskiMichal is an Associate Professor in Organizational Behavior at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He studies humans in a digital environment using cutting-edge computational methods, AI and Big Data.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: Learn more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“Our inner and outer crises are two sides of the same coin”There are many lenses through which to explain polarisation - economic, political, demographic, evolutionary… Alex Evans wants us to consider it from a psychological perspective.Alex has campaigned around inclusion and social justice for two decades, but researchers in Israel changed his mind about social fracture. Polarisation between Israelis and Palestinians is a mental health issue - driven by ongoing trauma, anxiety, hyper-vigilance and threat perception.If democracy depends on citizens who can manage their mental and emotional states, feel empathy for each other, and share a sense of common identity and purpose, we need to address our inner worlds as much as the outer one.“The state of the mind and the state of the world intersect”Larger Us, his campaigning organisation, puts psychology at the very heart of its approach to curing our social divide.Listen to Alex explain how society - both governments and individuals - can move from fight/flight to self-awareness and empathy, from powerlessness to agency, from disconnection and loneliness to belonging.Along the way, he also discusses:The changing role of Religion in societyCollective PsychologyHow ‘spirituality’ gave up on social justiceWhen polarisation is goodAnd how we can move from an Us-vs-Them to a ‘Larger Us’ Society“We really have to come together to tackle these crises but our capacity to do so is being eroded by our emotional responses.”Works cited include:Johann Hari’s Lost ConnectionsJurgen Habermas on Democratic PolarisationRobert Wright’s Non-ZeroRichard Layard on HappinessDavid Bohm on DialogueAlex EvansAlex founded the Collective Psychology Project in 2018, which then became Larger Us in 2021. He is the author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough?, and is a Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“The avoidance of conflict is actually the real problem”We traditionally view an argument as a symptom of a problematic relationship, but relationship psychologists have found that they actually lead to healthier and happier people. Children who grow up arguing with their parents do better in school, and couples who air their disagreements stay together longer.What holds true for the family, holds true for all groups of people: conflict is central to Democracy. Humans evolved to reason collectively: we need each other to get to the truth.“For valuable conflict to occur, you need two things: a shared goal, and agreed rules of engagement.”Listen to Ian and Turi discuss:Why arguments are good for usWhy most ‘conflict’ on social media isn’t ‘Fight’ so much as ‘Flight’Why emotion is so important in conflictHow we can turn our cognitive flaws to society’s advantageHow human individuals evolved to argue, but society evolved to reason.Democracy as an ‘Infinite Game’How we can have healthy arguments“It doesn’t matter if you are right, it matters that WE, as a society, are right. Arguing is what gets us there.”Works cited include:Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s Enigma of ReasonJames Carse and his Finite and Infinite GamesIan LeslieIan Leslie is a writer and author of acclaimed books on human behaviour. He writes about psychology, culture, technology and business for the New Statesman, the Economist, the Guardian and the Financial Times. He is the author of Conflicted.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“The disadvantaged don’t make the world, they cope with it”Since Etienne de la Boetie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1577), we have asked ourselves why the weak, the poor and the marginalised accept injustice.Social scientists talk to economic and political oppression. John Jost’s work shows that the oppressed don’t just suffer the injustice, they commit to it. Across society, people “invest in their own unhappiness”.Black children prefer white dolls; women feel entitled to lower salaries; victims blame themselves; around the world, people vote against their own economic interests…Jost presents three underlying reasons - epistemic, existential and relational - for why people become psychologically invested in the status quo even if it harms their objective interests, and walks through some of the research that demonstrates it.“One of the things that any kind of social movement for change needs to accomplish is a kind of undoing of the kind of indoctrination that all of us experience.”Listen to John Jost explain:False Consciousness: “ideology as a cognitive illusion” (Marx)Out-Group FavouritismWhy social activism is so taxing - and so many activists suffer burnoutThe role of the Stereotype: it simplifies and justifiesThe role of Evolution in system justificationAnd how to break the cycle“Part of the job of the Social Psychologist is to look at fixing the ills they identify”Works cited include:Daniel Kahneman’s Prospect TheoryRobert Sapolsky, on the physiology of low-statusHoward ZinnGyorgy LukacsBerger and Luckman’s The Social Construction of RealityKarl MarxAntonio GramsciHenri Tajfel’s Social Identity TheoryCatharine MacKinnon: Towards a Feminist Critique of the StateChris Boehm on the benefits of inequalityJohn JostJohn Jost is Professor of Psychology, Politics, & Data Science and Co-Director of the Center for Social and Political Behavior at New York University. His research addresses stereotyping, prejudice, social justice, intergroup relations, political ideology, and system justification theory. He has published over 200 journal articles and book chapters and five books, including A Theory of System Justification.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
"Populism is a permanent shadow of modern representative democracy, and a constant threat"The last few decades has seen a democratic drift, as populist leaders emerge all over the world - from Bolsonaro and Trump in the Americas, through Orban, Kaczynski and Erdogan in Europe, to Modi and Duterte in Asia.Their policies have little in common, but in their approach to politics, in their populism, they share profound, and deeply undemocratic, tendencies.Jan-Werner Muller conceptualises populism - that “moralistic imagination of politics” - as a triptych: Anti-Elite, Anti-Pluralist, and Identitarian. Populists arrogate the right to define who counts as ‘The People’, and to exclude all those who don’t fit the bill from full participation in civil and political life.“The ‘People’ is singular - authentic, morally pure”Listen to Jan-Werner Muller explain:Why Corruption and Clientelism are structural features of Populism Why Populists love social networks How Populists fetishise the idea of ‘The People’ Populism’s genius: that it can destroy Democracy in the name of democracyand How NOT to fight Populism“Populism is only thinkable within Representative Democracy”Works cited include:Ralph DahrendorfNancy L Rosenblum's work on HolismJan-Werner MüllerJan-Werner Müller is a political philosopher and historian of political ideas working at Princeton University. He is the author of What is Populism.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“The more we increase the connectivity of people, the more people get stuck in extreme positions and echo chambers on the extreme edges of our belief structures.”In December 2017, Jens Koed Madsen heard Mark Zuckerberg talking about the power of connectivity. Zuckerberg’s hypothesis was that the more people were connected, the more quickly we would filter out bad ideas - a reworking of John Stuart Mill’s classic theory of the marketplace of ideas.To test it, Jens built a computer model of a social network - full of rational agents sharing information with each other. What he found is disturbing: the larger the network of agents (or citizens, or Facebook users), the faster it builds echo chambers, and the more radicalised those echo chambers become.“Nobody ever starts extreme - they’re pushed into it through connectivity”We have spent years focusing on ‘fake news’, misinformation, gullible readers, on the design ethics of the platforms, on political manipulation and propaganda. But Jens’ research shows that it’s the very architecture of our social networks that polarises us.Listen to him explain his experiment Large Networks of Rational Agents form Persistent Echo Chambers, as well as a forthcoming paper on the role broadcasters play in the media ecosystem - and attempt to look at how we can fix our infodemic.“Media is an ecosystem. In the same way that an epidemiologist describes the spread of diseases, we do infodemiology - tracking the spread of misinformation across complex dynamic systems.”Works cited include:Sander van der Linden on inoculating against misinformationTristan Harris on the ethics of attention mongeringStephan Lewandowsky’s Debunking HandbookJens Koed MadsenJens Koed Madsen is a Cognitive Psychologist at LSE. He is interested in misinformation and complex human environments, and how people change their beliefs and act in social networks.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Michael Shermer is one of the world’s most prominent skeptics - founder of The Skeptic Society and editor of its magazine Skeptic. Once a fundamentalist Christian, Michael has spent his career uncovering the workings and causes of our 'Believing Brain'.“Our brains are wired to think more like lawyers than scientists - to win arguments, to bolster what we already believe...”We evolved to discern patterns in the world around us. When our ancestors ate the wrong mushroom, they very quickly learnt to link it to their upset stomach. Discovering patterns is the way humans learn. But humans are sometimes too good at it: we ‘discern’ patterns where none exist, and we infuse them with agency.Listen to Michael and Turi discuss the two key evolutionary drivers of belief:Patternicity - our tendency to find patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data.Agenticity - our tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency.And learn more about:The evolutionary origins of beliefWhere conspiracy theories come fromDopamine: the belief drugWhat Twin Studies teach us about the Heritability of beliefHow to keep a healthy mindAnd B.F Skinner’s famous pigeon experiment, which shows all animals exist on the belief spectrum.“Belief comes quickly and naturally, skepticism is slow and unnatural, and most people have a low tolerance for ambiguity.”Michael ShermerMichael Shermer is a science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic. He's also the author of The Believing Brain and most recently, Giving the Devil his Due on the free speech wars raging across the West.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Roberto Foa's research on Global Dissatisfaction with Democracy and Youth Dissatisfaction with Democracy uncovered the highest rates of dissatisfaction in decades, particularly amongst young people.“The majority of Americans today are dissatisfied with Democracy”2019 represents the highest level of democratic discontent on record. Around the world, the share of individuals who are dissatisfied with democracy has risen to 57.5%.In the biggest macro-survey on perceptions of democracy yet performed, Roberto's research shows some terrifying key trends with dissatisfaction at its worst in the world's largest and oldest democracies.If a majority of citizens in the US are dissatisfied, it's 80% in Brazil, and closer to 90% in Mexico.In Europe, it's 80% in Greece and 65% in Italy.In Africa, growing disillusion with the promise of newly democratic countries has pushed dissatisfaction up to 60% in both Nigeria (the world's 5th largest democracy) and South Africa. With the failure of the Arab Spring, democracy in the Middle East remains a dream.The only two exceptions are some northern European countries (Switzerland, Netherlands, the Nordics) and parts of Asia where democracy appears to be delivering.But while dissatisfaction is not quite the same as anti-democratic sentiment, frustrations with its failings are THE fastest route towards populism (that democratic counterfeit).Listen to Turi and Roberto discuss his findings from around the world, and look at:why we have lost our faith in democracywhether we’re right to distrust its promiseswhy the young in particular feel democracy has disenfranchised themand how greater ideological polarization might actually be good for democracy in the long term..."Dissatisfaction with Democracy is rational - in countries with institutions that deliver, it isn't there"Roberto FoaRoberto Stefan Foa is University Lecturer in politics and public policy, Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for the Future of Democracy, and Director of the YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research. More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“There’s a subtle but crucial difference between ‘Opponent’ and ‘Enemy’”If Polarization is on the rise around the world, it takes different forms. The “Ideas Landscape” in the US, UK, France and Germany is very different, with the US - unfortunately - most radicalised across its politics. There, political sorting amongst voters and inside Congress has seen a hardening of attitudes towards each side. In Europe, however, there’s more hope.“What seems to characterize the British political environment right now, more than polarization, is exhaustion…”In the UK, there is very broad consensus around environmental concerns, the benefits of diversity and the value of the NHS, with only a small minority of political activists on the hard left and right. That pattern is echoed in France (with the added divisiveness of Islam) and Germany (more divided over how to deal with its past).What can Europe do to ensure it avoids US-levels of polarisation? Stephen believes they key is building a shared identity, characterized by 8 key features.An individual experience of belonging, regardless of background or biology.A common perception of the country, one that is neither self-aggrandizing nor self-loathing, but self-aware.A basic alignment on trusted institutions for expertise and other information.A shared notion of the individual’s responsibility to the country.A common sense of our basic, guaranteed rights from society.A set of shared values to orient moral decision making.Congenial intergroup perceptionsCommon aspirations for the future.“In the US, we’ve lost the common sense of authority that should be provided by academia, science and the media. The umpires and referees aren’t trusted - which means both sides get nervous and they just want to see their side win.”Stephen HawkinsMore in Common was founded to strengthen democratic societies by countering social division and polarization. They work at the very base of the pyramid - doing deep research into the causes and forms of polarisation, as well as testing new initiatives to counter it. Stephen is their Global Director of Research, and has led their work on Hidden Tribes, the Perception Gap and Democracy for PresidentMore on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“The key division in all political systems is the result of two distinct perceptions of the most dangerous threats”Western politics have traditionally been divided into Conservatives and Liberals - tradition vs egalitarianism. John Hibbing, who more than anyone has put biology back into our understanding of politics, proposes an entirely new approach.John divides the world between “Securitarians” and “Unitarians”, and sees the battle between them as the ultimate source of political conflict in the world.Do you worry more about immigration or authoritarianism?“The difference in orientation to security in the face of outsiders constitutes the most fundamental divide in political systems around the world, now and always.”Based on a mass of new survey data, John’s revolutionary new book, The Securitarian Personality, proposes a fundamental rethink of the core political divide in our societies - between Securitarians, whose central preoccupation is to protect insiders from outsider threats, and Unitarians, whose core central goal is to outsiders from insider threats. It is also a seminal new assessment of the political instincts behind Donald Trump’s rise to power.Securitarians fear outsiders: immigrants, foreigners, norm-violators, non-native speakers, and those of different races, religions, sexualities who might be a threat to the identity and existence of the in-group.Unitarians fear powerful insiders: those with the authority to impose their will arbitrary on the society below them.These differences are deeply, biologically embedded in who we are, and they have immensely strong evolutionary causes. Securitarians and Unitarians are natural human types, and have been since our hunter-gatherer days.“Political differences are not just superficial and malleable but rather attached to stable psychological, physiological, and possibly even genetic variations.”Listen to John and Turi discuss this fundamental rethinking of our evolutionary politics: The biology behind our political preferences The characteristics of Securitarians and Unitarians How Securitarians differ from Conservatives, Authoritarians, and Fascists The ‘Securitarian’ Phenotype The evolutionary history of our different political instincts Who voted for Donald Trump (and Orban, Bolsonaro and others) and why The advantages and hypocrisies of Unitarian thinking What Siberian silver foxes can teach us about political typesJohn HibbingJohn Hibbing is an American political scientist and Foundation Regents University Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is known for his research on the biological and psychological correlates of political ideology. He is the author of The Securitarian Personality.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“We synchronise together through processes of emotional contagion and social conformity… This helps produce a shared experience of the world.”Human beings are social creatures. But is this social nature more than just a desire to be connected? Do we actually form one collective consciousness? Are humans more a ‘We’ than an ‘I’?In her book Hivemind: the New Science of Tribalism in our Divided World, Sarah Rose Cavanagh speaks to biologists, historians and psychologists to explore these questions and better understand our “collective self.”But what can we learn from the Hivemind? How has it polarised us? How does it impact our sense of ‘Us’ and what does it do to our feelings about ‘Them’? And what has social media done to our social consciousness?“I think taking our ultra sociality online has led to some group polarisation and this tendency for people with different viewpoints to polarise on opposite ends of the spectrum.”Listen to Sarah Rose and Turi discuss how our sense of self is derived collectively.How we experience the world as a collectiveThe science that proves Emotional ContagionThe threat of conspiracy theories to our consensus realityThe role stories play in our making sense of the worldSynchrony, and the warm buzz of ‘sharing’How stories improve our theory of mindWhether our relationships shape our likes and dislikesThe danger of dehumanisation of our out-groupsHow loneliness affects healthAnd what we humans can learn from bees…“I think that where we need to go is not to avoid our collective social cells, but to make sure that we have human beings as our in-group, rather than this nation or this ethnic group or this religion…”Sarah Rose CavanaghSarah Rose Cavanagh is a psychologist, professor, and Associate Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College. Her research considers the contribution of emotions and emotion regulation to quality of life. She is the author of Hivemind: the New Science of Tribalism in our Divided World.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“You really do have to do bridge building at the community level. People have to learn to talk to each other across sides”The Left and the Right today are miles apart. In the past few years, polarisation has become an integral part of our societies. But has it always been this way - is polarisation a natural part of democracy?Covering the politics of polarisation from Chile through India to Vietnam, via long-standing democracies such as the US and Germany, this week’s guest Thomas Carothers suggests that there are three roots present in every polarised society - religion, race and ideological clashes. But what about societies with no polarisation? According to Thomas, they’re at risk too.“Too much consensus can lead to a dangerous pressure for alternatives that usually tend to be anti systemic, extreme and dangerous…”Listen to Turi and Thomas discuss:Polarisation as a fixture of democracyHow consensus leads to polarised societiesWhether there are problems with a lack of polarisationThe creation of grievance politicsHow Brexit created a different identity polarisationWhether polarisation can be a good thingHow grievance politics differ from Right to LeftWhether we can manage polarisationIf the pandemic has made us less polarised“I think the pandemic has opened our hearts and our minds a little bit in ways that’ll help us feel at least some sense of common humanity beneath the level of the political noise…”Thomas CarothersThomas Carothers is senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He is also the author of Democracies Divided: the global challenges of political polarisationMore on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“Dyadic morality is ultimately about the link between perceived harm and immorality…”Why do we believe murder is “wrong”? Why can’t we compare the effects of a hurricane with the acts of a paedophile? Kurt Gray argues that human morality stems from “harm” - that moral acts have an intentional agent and a victim, and it is this perception of harm caused by one person to another that allows us to define moral evils.So could this explain political differences? Do we just all have different definitions of harm? In which case, is there a way of reconciling polarised groups by re-examining our own perception of harm and suffering?“I think one way forward is acknowledging that the other side’s perceptions of harm are legitimate…”Listen to Kurt and Turi discuss how harm is the basis of human morality.How intuitionism is actually about harmWhether morality requires a perpetrator and a victimHow dyadic moral theory deals with self-harmWhy people moralise homosexualityThe importance of theory of mind in dyadic moralityGod versus EnvironmentThe moral differences between Liberals and ConservativesHow people remove moral harmWhy perceptions of harm creates political polarisationWhether recognition of perceptions of harm can bridge the political divide“The way to see people as more moral is to acknowledge that their perceptions of harm are not made up, but instead authentic and that they really are worried about safeguarding others from suffering…”Works cited include:Lawrence Kohlberg and his work on Moral DevelopmentJonathan Haidt and his work on Intuition and Pluralism.Kurt GrayDr. Gray is an Associate Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he directs the Deepest Beliefs Lab and the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in Organizational Behavior at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC, where he teaches about organizational ethics and team processes.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“A lot of the human behaviour that seems perplexing, irrational (like politics or religion) is often most effectively explained by Evolutionary Psychology”We evolved to live in hunter-gatherer communities clustered in small units spread sparsely across the landscape. Existentially threatened by outsiders - who brought war as well as germs - humans evolved adaptive psychological behaviours to help negotiate our ancestral environment.Evolutionary Psychology seeks to understand human psychological behaviour from that adaptive perspective. If we protect our children, fall in love, create social hierarchies - what were the evolutionary reasons to do so?“Evolutionary psychology allows us to get sighted to our instincts”Listen to Hector and Turi discuss what evolutionary psychology can teach us about our Politics.Evolutionary Basis for Conservatism and LiberalismThe Politics of Sex: why men and women have different political tendenciesWhy there’s a correlation between conservatism and upper-body strength in menWhy there’s a correlation between liberalism and greater facial expressiveness across both gendersSimon Baron Cohen’s work on autism and the “essential male brain”Why Conservatives are from Mars and Liberals are from VenusHow we can map our politics across the Big 5 Personality TestWhy high-testosterone men tend to share lessThe evolutionary basis for Xenophobia and XenophiliaWhy Conservatives love dominance hierarchies and Liberals spend all their effort trying to pull them down.Why Fear is such a big driver for conservatives (who tend to have a larger amygdala than liberals)What the difference between Chimps and Bonobos can teach us about the evolution of our politicsHow to explain the manifestation of strong man politicians, like Donald Trump, in evolutionary termsThe idea of “Evolutionary Mismatch”: that certain types of behaviour today are a useless hold over from our hunter-gatherer ancestry (like a psychological version of the appendix)And why the Iroquois had a split leadership system: one for war (led by young men) and one for peace (led by the old and the women).“Democracy is the answer, but it often needs tuning”Works cited include:John Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith and John R. Alford and their work on the Biology of Political Differences.Sir Simon Baron Cohen and his work on autism.Hector GarciaHector Garcia is Professor in the department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas and a Clinical Psychologist working with veterans. He’s the author of Sex, Power and Partisanship and hosts a YouTube channel discussing those issues.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“Microaggressions are so hard because they typically don’t meet traditional philosophical conceptions of blameworthiness…”Microaggressions are the latest front in the culture wars - seemingly harmless comments such as “yes, but where are you really from…” or misused pronouns, over time, can cause profound damage to the receiver. But the idea of cautioning an act so seemingly harmless feels like thought-policing.In her book The Ethics of Microaggression, Regina Rini defines a MicroAggression as “an act or event that is perceived by a member of an oppressed group as possibly but not certainly instantiating oppression.”There’s a lot to unpack here, and a lot to trigger both Right and Centre, since it tells us the aggression is in the eye of the beholder. Microaggressions can’t be ‘judged’ from the outside, they can only be heard.To many, that feels intuitively dangerous: old school totalitarianism could see you hauled off for ideas other might suspect you of having; with MicroAggressions, one might be hauled off for ideas someone else could have based on your suspected intent.Rini explains the philosophical misunderstanding at the heart of the war around microaggression: the huge mismatch between the Harm Felt and the Blame Attributable.Minute acts of indignity can add up to systemic violence and have profound real-world consequences for their victims, but how do you blame the often unconscious perpetrator for an act so ‘micro’?Listen to Regina and Turi discuss:Why MicroAggressions have become such a cause celebre in the Culture WarsMicroAggression and the threat to freedom of speechThe history of the idea to Chester Pierce in the 1970s.The problem of Collective Harm vs Individual BlameHow the idea of MicroAggression is woven into thinking about systemic inequality.“We’re suffering from an inability to hold two thoughts in our heads the the same time… First, MicroAggressions add up to real and serious harm in the lives of marginalised people. Second, most MicroAggressions are NOT the sort of the thing we can easily blame people for”Works Cited include:Derald Wing Sue: Race TalkChester Pierce, who coined the term.Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American MindRegina RiniRegina Rini holds the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition at York University in Toronto. Prior to that, she taught at NYU’s centre of bioethics. She writes a regular philosophy column for the TLS.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“We need to borrow from both the Left and the Right to achieve a renewal of liberalism…”As a journalist and political commentator, Timothy Garton Ash took a front row seat watching Eastern Europe open up in the 1990s - the heyday of Liberal expansionism around the world. Today, faced with populist authoritarians and illiberal democrats at home, and the rise of China's new model of modernity abroad, Liberalism is on the back foot - we're experiencing an "anti-Liberal counter-revolution".Timothy argues liberalism is to blame for its troubles - over-exporting free-market ideas, under-investing in culture, community and politics in a world of massive, destabilising change. He argues for a "conservative-socialist-Liberalism" - a civic patriotism focused on the common good deeply embedded in national communities.On the back of his recent manifesto for Liberalism's renewal in Prospect Magazine, listen to Timothy and Turi discuss:Whether Liberalism can survive in the 21st CenturyWhether Joe Biden's America can still hope to lead the "free world"The demise of liberal ideas in the student bodyEquality of Esteem alongside economic securityLevelling up vs Levelling downCivic VirtuePatriotism vs Nationalism“The nation is just too important, and too strong in its emotional appeal, to be left to the nationalists”Timothy Garton AshTimothy Garton Ash is the author of ten books of political writing or ‘history of the present’ which have charted the transformation of Europe over the last half century. He is Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.More on this episodeLearn all about the Parlia Podcast here.Meet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Comments (3)

Oleksii Yaresko

Very interesting theory

Apr 26th

Oleksii Yaresko

amazing episode

Feb 10th

Oleksii Yaresko

Thank you, very interesting episode.

Jan 31st
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