Spectre at Arizona and Northwestern

Levi Spectre has given academic talks twice in December, at both Arizona and Northwestern, presenting ideas from his ongoing joint work with Kathrin Glüer. Their research concerns the nature of political fact polarization and certain difficulties about how to test for its causes. The talk given was titled Polarization Mechanisms, Prior Belief, and (Un)Motivated Reasoning.

From the abstract:

Political polarization and, more specifically, factual polarization is a concerning feature of contemporary public discourse and society. Recently, we learned it could play a central role in destabilizing even the oldest, most established democracy of the modern age. It is wreaking havoc in many other places worldwide, and it continues to be a significant obstacle in responding to the global threats of COVID-19 and climate change.

To confront factual polarization, naturally, it is crucial to understand what it is, what, for the most part, drives it? It is no wonder, then, that substantial theoretical and empirical work is trying to answer this question.

Following a short introduction, I will distinguish between two types of theory of factual polarization, each suggesting a different course of action in trying to stop or at least mitigate factual polarization. Then, after locating a shared assumption, I’ll say why it’s difficult to test which kind of theory is true.

After looking at some experiments and why they fail to deliver this test, I focus on the (or at least a) leading theory of factual polarization – Identity Protective Reasoning. Following one of its strengths, we will see why its explanation for one of its famous (replicated) experiments is lacking. More importantly, we will see why this theory’s experiment fails to support it over theories of the rival category. Preliminary experimental results that further support this conclusion will come at the end (if time permits).