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Changing attitudes in public discourse

Changing Attitudes in Public Discourse has developed practical interventions to improve public debate: reducing arrogance, increasing open-mindedness and cultivating humility.

Political opinions in many Western-style democracies show signs of increasing polarisation. This has coincided with a change of tone in debates. Seemingly arrogant behaviours like shouting, mocking, dismissing or rudely interrupting other people during discussions seem more frequent and widespread.

Reducing defensiveness, encouraging humility in debate

This multi-disciplinary project has successfully developed and tested practical interventions to address arrogant behaviours. Our focus on self-affirmation techniques helps people affirm their self-worth by thinking about the values that matter to them.

Core to the project is testing to determine whether these techniques help to reduce defensiveness, in turn reducing intellectual arrogance and increasing humility in debate.

By adopting such tested interventions, our schools and businesses, governments and charities, and influential institutions like the media, can improve the tone and content of public discussion in wider society.

Our blog Open for Debate explores the changing nature of public debate, providing a place for academics, journalists, policymakers and the general public to consider how the tone of debate is shifting, and what can we do to tackle arrogant or aggressive behaviours.

Changing Attitudes in Public Discourse is run jointly by Professor Alessandra Tanesini (Cardiff University) and Professor Gregory Maio (University of Bath), and funded by Humility and Discourse in Public Life.

Project partners: Cardiff University, University of Bath, University of Nottingham

Project duration: 2017-2019

Funding: Humility and Discourse in Public Life in a University of Connecticut subaward agreement funded by the John Templeton Foundation (Grant 58942).