Group Polarization

October 15, 2013Comments Off on Group Polarization

Due to this
study
and the danger of impacting what studies get funding, Popular Science
has turned off their comments.

The study notes those exposed to uncivil
comments “e.g. you’re an idiot if you believe {x}” become more polarized in
their opinion and their interpretation of the story changed. Popular Science
fears uncivil comments increase risk perception which will impact funding.

Yet the study paints a more complicated
picture.

We did find a significant interaction between support
for nanotechnology and incivility on risk perceptions (β =.09; p<.01). When
exposed to uncivil comments, those who have higher levels of support for
nanotechnology were more likely to report lower levels of risk perception and
those with low levels of support were more likely to report higher levels of
risk perception.

Essentially, uncivil comments break both
ways. They polarize people to believe more strongly in existing views.

This is in line with group polarization
theory. If you have a belief, you feel a sense of connection with others that
share the same belief. If you or a member of your group is attacked, you become
more defensive in your belief.

This manifests itself in new views about
the topic that allow for this defense. In this case, it’s risk perception. 

If you allow uncivil comments in your community
you will polarize opinions on key issues. Sometimes that will be useful,
sometimes not. 

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