Eliminating the shouting match

24 February 2017

Man shouting through megaphone

As political opinions in many Western-style democracies show signs of increasing polarization, a new project led by Cardiff and Bath universities is attempting to help combat the growth of arrogant and aggressive behaviours in public debates.

Professor Alessandra Tanesini, a philosopher from Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy and Professor Gregory Maio, a psychologist from the University of Bath, will develop and test practical interventions designed to combat behaviours like shouting, mocking, dismissing or rudely interrupting other people which are becoming more frequent and widespread.

'Defensive attitudes and intellectual arrogance'

The team will recruit 320 student and community volunteers and measure their self-esteem and attitudes toward controversial issues. These contentious topics will be debated by groups of volunteers, allowing researchers to identify examples of arrogant behaviours and test whether they are predicted by the measured attitudes. At the same time, the team will test the effectiveness of self-affirmation as a technique to reduce arrogance.

Professor Tanesini of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, said: “This form of aggressive debate is often caused by defensive attitudes and intellectual arrogance, which alienates the general public..."

Alessandra Tanesini

"Our study will focus on self-affirmation techniques that help people affirm their self-worth by thinking about the values that matter to them. We expect this to result in less arrogant and aggressive behaviour in debate.”

Professor Alessandra Tanesini, Professor

The research is one of 10 innovative projects funded by the John Templeton Foundation through the Humility and Conviction in Public Life initiative, based at the University of Connecticut. This programme seeks to find ways to cultivate healthier public debate and dialogue, particularly by balancing two key features of democracy: intellectual humility and conviction of belief.

Further information about this project and the wider initiative is available here.

For more information visit the School webpages.