Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Old Wine, New Bottles

There’s an interesting series of posts over at Open University that begins with Cass Sunstein reporting on some of his studies exploring the concept of “ideological amplification” – in one instance, showing that panels consisting entirely of Republican-appointed judges tend to reach more conservative results than mixed panels (and that a corresponding effect exists for all-Democrat panels), and in another instance showing that discussions amongst the politically like-minded tend to lead participants to hold their views more strongly than before. David Greenberg then reports on a study concerning Americans’ polarized reading habits, and wonders about the extent to which blogs (and the Internet more generally) are exacerbating the problem. Jacob Levy suggests that this sort of polarization isn’t all bad, and might be necessary to the development of intellectual movements. Then along comes Steven Pinker to say, in effect, “Right you all are. But please don’t pretend this is some sort of new insight. Psychologists have been exploring these phenomena for a good half-century.”


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