Templeton World Charity Foundation has launched its Listening and Learning in a Polarized World (LLPW) Priority to support research for new scientific discoveries that can help humans flourish in a world confronted with increasing volumes of polarization.

What is Polarization?

The term polarization is used in a variety of contexts with different meanings. A base working definition of polarization is a state in which the opinions, beliefs, or interests of a group or society no longer range along a continuum but become concentrated at opposing extremes.

Why is Polarization Important?

Sir John Templeton, founder of Templeton World Charity Foundation, believed that “the free and friendly competition of ideas” enables the truth to “more easily emerge.” This is critical for societal progress because “humans flourish best in a system of life that stimulates novelty, innovativeness, and individuality and that rewards new approaches, new concepts, new inventions, and new and better ways of thinking about life and its ultimate ends and concerns.” While diversity of ideas, opinions, beliefs, and interests of a group or society is usually a healthy driver of advancement, extreme polarization often restricts free and friendly competition of ideas and can therefore be a powerful barrier to achieving societal progress and human flourishing.

We see 5 opportunities to address key challenges and make progress in the field.

Listening and Learning in a Polarized World

1. Identifying & addressing knowledge gaps

Significant knowledge gaps in this area make it hard to identify solutions. A broad range of scholars are already working in this field, but there remains a need for more and coordinated research. We plan to implement a three-phase strategy to support research, focusing on understanding underlying mechanisms through integrated models and measurements, cross-cultural measurement and mapping, and foundational research informing effective and culturally relevant polarization preventative and mitigating innovations .
 

Man giving presentation to a room of people

2. Facilitating coordination between research groups

Research in this area is conducted by disparate groups that lack fully integrated cross-coordination. We will require open science practices and work to galvanize a community of inquiry by supporting development of a research coordination network.

Listening and Learning in a Polarized World

3. Streamlining communications between researchers & practitioners

Information flow between researchers and practitioners is restricted. We will work to strengthen a community of practice engaged with the research coordination network, with the goal of practice-informed research and research-informed practice.

Listening and Learning in a Polarized World

4. Exploring new opportunities to increase the efficiency of the scientific research process

Research practices are held back by not following opportunities to increase efficiency. We will implement a unique review process and actively support global collaboration and learning.

 

Listening and Learning in a Polarized World

5. Exploring the significance of collective behavior in the study of polarization

Exploring the broader significance of collective behavior as a broader subject that encompasses polarization could be undervalued as a research topic. Extreme polarization can be a critical obstacle to human flourishing and effective collective behavior can help us address our most critical issues. We plan to understand and pursue this relationship. 

Listening and Learning in a Polarized World

How we will focus our interests

We will not commit to any particular polarizing topic. Instead, we will strive to study how people can deal with polarization in various contexts.

We will support research projects to help us better understand the problem and possibly discover solutions. This results in less emphasis on developing or launching innovations.

We will focus on efforts that develop character virtues and strengthen our decision-making capacities. This means moving away from purely rule-based interventions or activities that restrict individual freedoms.

 

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