SELF- AND GROUP-AFFIRMATION AS A MEANS OF ATTENUATING POLITICAL POLARIZATION
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Zainab Aurora Mohammed, David R. Pillow
affect polarization, self-affirmation, self-categorization, social identity
One of the greatest challenges facing American politics is fear-based threats towards everyday Americans’ personal lives. As Americans, threats to our identities such as religion, gender, and nationalism, can prompt protective behaviors that warrant adverse feelings towards any out-group that makes us feel uncertain about our self and social identity. Tajfel’s social identity theory stipulates that belonging to a group gives us a sense of pride and enhances our self-esteem. Therefore, by enhancing the status of the group we too enhance our own self-image. Similarly, when a social identity is under threat, it is seen not only as a threat to the group but also to one’s self-concept. An individual’s reminder of their political party prompts a social comparison between the two parties, thus increasing bias and polarization of the out-group. This in- and out-group conflict is the premise of this paper. The following research discusses the concepts of self-categorization and its effects on in- and out-group biases. A 2 x3 factorial analysis was conducted to observe the effects of openness of democrats (in-group x out-group) to opposing views using a values affirmation intervention (control x self-affirmation x group affirmation). Preliminary results suggest that when democrats recategorized themselves as Americans, they were more open to out-group views.