When we belong to a group we gradually take stands on the extreme edge of that group’s opinions, counter-intuitively to fit in. In so doing that group becomes more extreme in its views over time. That, in a nutshell is what Cass Sunstein describes in Going to Extremes. This behavior affects diverse groups’ choices including in churches, juries, elections and terrorist organizations. Groupthink is more likely to happen.
The authors of The Big Sort came to the same conclusion – plus they found that Americans were increasingly gathering in clusters of like-minded people – thus creating a more partisan, contentious culture.
What do you think? Neither book offers concrete solutions.
Here’s Scott Stossel’s droll suggestion: “Bishop (The Big Sort co-author) cites research suggesting that, contrary to the standard goo-goo exhortations, the surer route to political comity may be less civic engagement, less passionate conviction. So let’s hear it for the indifferent and unsure, whose passivity may provide the national glue we need.”