A Threat Within Each of Us to Our Discourse

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

By Dillon Rajakarier | United Kingdom


Even if you’re not politically active, you likely identify with one side of a political issue-whether that is the existence of university fees, government competence or the debate on abortion. You’re scrolling through social media and encounter a post or comment you severely disagree with. What are your feelings and thoughts of the ‘other side’? If you were going to comment, what would you say?


Your first thoughts probably wouldn’t be pleasant. You may feel intense anger towards those who hold such views and feel like dismissing them as unaware, unkind, and unintelligent.

Such behaviour is natural and may seem harmless. However, especially on a larger scale, it is counterproductive to achieving proper discourse– where ideas and beliefs can flow freely and their proponents and opponents are open to change.


When different sides of an ideological or political debate conflict instead of collaborate for greater understanding, we step into the field of inter-group conflict.


The effects of such conflict are harrowing: groups perpetuate prejudice and stereotypes, feel fear and hatred, and can direct discrimination and aggression towards other groups, other humans. Effectively, by adopting an ‘us versus them’ mentality, those who hold different beliefs and identities are dehumanised and belittled instead of engaged in discussion.


We see this all too often in social media comments, when opportunity for political discussion is instead used to fling stereotypes and insults.


But it gets worse as this effect is compounded by Group Polarisation. This occurs when people are part of a group, and their decisions and beliefs become more extreme in the direction of the group’s inclinations. For instance, people who are moderately pro-life may find their views entrenched and strengthened by interacting in a group of pro-life believers. Even more concerning is that members identify so strongly with their ‘team’… they begin to automatically reject any ideas associated with the ‘opponent’…”.


This is why the echo chamber effect of social media groups and algorithms that cater to your preferences are so dangerous. Rather than introducing a variety of narratives and opinions for consideration, they have the potential to reinforce and polarise mind-sets.


So if we wish to have an open discussion about important topics and progress society, we cannot afford to adopt the group mentality. We have to approach each potential clash as an opportunity for collaboration and open our own minds as much as we would expect from those we oppose.


Indeed, we might be surprised at the results. As a society, we feel more divided into groups than ever, even in Brexit Britain. However, we have far more areas of agreement than we think (University of Bath).


Groups are important. We define ourselves by those we are part of, whether willingly or otherwise. But the danger of the group, is that too often, as you embrace a set of values, thinking, and people, you close yourself off to others.


4(RODGERS, Lucy, 2019) 5(BATH, University of, 2019) 6(WIJNBERG, Rob, 2019)


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#society #sociology #groupconflict #Political #psychology

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