Reducing Polarization Through Scalable Cooperation
TWCF Number
Project Duration
September 1 / 2023
- August 31 / 2025
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded

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Joshua Greene
Institution President and Fellows of Harvard College

Scott Warren
Institution Global Development Incubator

The long-term goal of a project led by Joshua Greene at Harvard and co-directed by Scott Warren is to develop scalable, evidence-based methods to reduce affective polarization (e.g., animosity toward one’s out-group) and anti-democratic behaviors globally. Their research focuses on the advantages of mutually beneficial cooperation to produce these positive effects.

This work builds upon the project team’s previous research, expanding it to additional cultural contexts. In the previous work, they conducted a series of experiments in which Republicans and Democrats cooperate as partners in an online quiz game. The team collected baseline measures then allowed participants to interact prior to beginning the quiz. Participants completed a questionnaire and baseline measures. Mutual knowledge of group identities was established and participants were awarded points (and corresponding pay) for accuracy based on a joint answer, which they must have agreed upon via chat. Participants answered each question privately before deciding with their partners, enabling the team to measure the benefits (or costs) of each partnership. The results showed that an hour of gameplay with an out-party partner can produce positive effects lasting up to four months.

In this project, the team will test the generality of their prior findings and aim to identify variables that determine whether mutually beneficial cooperation can reduce affective polarization. These include variables related to cultural context as well as generalizable game parameters that are likely to affect learning. They intend to test versions of the quiz game in three new populations: Supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC, a.k.a. “Congress” or “Congress Party”) in India; Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs; and American Republicans and Democrats in naturalistic online settings, including individuals with extreme political views.

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