Individual and cross-cultural differences in the attraction to political extremes
September 1, 2023 - August 31, 2025
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Director: Joaquin NavajasInstitution: Fundación Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
Co-Director: Amit GoldenbergInstitution: Harvard University
The growing divide between people with different political opinions has detrimental impacts on human interactions, as it hinders the relationship with close family members, reduces social cooperation, and increases affective polarization(e.g., animosity toward one’s out-group). Previous research suggests that political homophily, the preference for interacting with individuals who hold similar political views, is a central mechanism underlying these negative outcomes.
This project directed by Joaquin Navajas at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, co-directed by Amit Goldenberg at Harvard Business School hypothesizes that homophily is not the only driver of attraction between individuals in the political domain. They propose that acrophily, the preference for interacting with individuals who hold more extreme (rather than more moderate) political views, also plays a role in who individuals select to interact with. To test this hypothesis, they will conduct a series of survey experiments across 20 countries in the Americas, representing 97% of its population. The project aims to test the hypothesis that acrophily drives this selection beyond the context of the United States, uncover the social influence mechanisms behind the attraction to political extremes, evaluate the relative contribution of individual and country-level variables on the strength of acrophily, and examine the association between the attraction towards political extremes and affective polarization.
Overall, this project will provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of political acrophily and provide key novel insights that will inform efforts to reduce political polarization in order to promote a more inclusive society.
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