How conservatives and liberals talk past each other

DThe fact that the world does not divide itself into individual things with clearly delimited properties, but rather that humans have a central, formative part in it, is a basic philosophical observation. The effect is twofold: Your own convictions and attitudes have an influence on what we mean by a certain term. The chosen conceptual boundaries also influence our thinking at the same time.

There are examples of this in almost every research discipline: classifications that divide what has been researched into similar and different things based on certain criteria, even if this would in principle be possible differently. When an astrophysicist speaks of complex chemistry, a chemist will have to laugh. And when he characterizes humans and a flower as the same form of life, the biologist laughs again. di

That such conceptual differences may also play a role in society, American psychologists have now suggested in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. In three interview-based experiments, they investigated the question of what the participants understood by the concept of diversity on the one hand and how this understanding was related to their other attitudes on the other. When asked which form of diversity was sought in one’s own environment, it became apparent that the term was understood in (at least) two different ways: On the one hand, demographic, for example in the sense of different ethnic origins, age or relationship status. On the other hand, with regard to different points of view, such as political attitudes.

Which reading was represented, in turn, depended on one’s own political position: while participants who viewed themselves politically as liberal valued demographic diversity, conservatives valued a variety of opinions. This difference was also reflected in the way both political groups defined diversity. The authors attribute this to the fact that the term is shaped by the media contexts in which one moves. If one talks about diversity, one should clarify beforehand what exactly is meant by this, recommend the psychologists – advice which, if followed, can hardly hurt in other controversial contexts.


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