Lesson 5

Explore other worldviews

Lesson 5

Explore other worldviews


Learn tactics to understand other people better despite our disagreements. Gain skills to identify your shared values and find common ground where you least expect it.

Our Picks

Recommended Tool:

  • Ground News. When you read a news article, the Ground News browser extension will show you who else is covering the same news story and compare how other sources from across the political spectrum are reporting on it. It also integrates with Facebook to analyze articles in your newsfeed.

Recommended Videos:

  • Julia Galef, “Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong”, TED Talk (11:37). Galef explains that we have a deeply ingrained instinct to respond to differences with an “us vs. them” mentality.  This can cause us to engage in “motivated reasoning,” where we are driven to defend what we want to be true and attack what we hope to be false. But if we each want to “to see the world as clearly as [we] possibly can,” we’re much better off adopting the mindset of a scout who pursues the truth even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable.
  • Arthur Brooks, A Conservative’s Plea: Let’s Work Together, TED Talk (14:14). Arthur Brooks, president of the public policy think tank American Enterprise Institute,  encourages progressives and conservatives to overcome partisan differences and work together on the shared goal of alleviating poverty.

  • Chaehan So, Why we are wrong when we think we are right, TEDx Talks (13:37). So explores the cognitive biases that conspire to create an illusion that we know people much better than we actually do. The predictions we make about people, based on our preconceptions, impact how we interpret their speech and behavior. In order to see people for who they truly are, we can follow So’s practical advice for counteracting our cognitive biases.

  • Eli Pariser, How news feed algorithms supercharge confirmation bias, Big Think (4:58). Pariser explains the dangerous consequences of getting our news from platforms that filter what we see based on our views and interests. When our media diet is tailored to our current worldview, we aren’t exposed to the same information as people with a different ideological outlook. As a result, Pariser says, “it’s getting harder and harder even to imagine how someone else might come to the views that they have [or] see the world the way they do, because that information is literally not part of what we’re seeing or consuming.”

  • Eli Pariser, Beware online filter bubbles, TED Talk (8:48). Pariser explains how our social media feeds curate a specific experience of the world for each of us – which jeopardizes our ability to see the world through perspectives other than our owd.

  • How can you change somebody’s opinion?, AsapSCIENCE (4:38). This fun animated video summarizes evidence indicating that if you want to change someone’s mind, an important first step is to find common ground with them.

  • How filter bubbles isolate you, GCFLearnFree.org (2:37). A quick explainer on how algorithms personalize the information we’re exposed to online. Unfortunately, this process also isolates us from information that doesn’t match our current views and interests – which means we might miss out on diverse ideas and opinions without even realizing this is happening.

  • Michael Sandel, The lost art of democratic debate, TED-Ed (19:42). Political philosopher Michael Sandel illuminates the benefits of maintaining an open dialogue about how our values inform our viewpoints on political issues. Instead of shying away from disagreement, Sandel demonstrates that “a better way to mutual respect is to engage directly with the moral convictions citizens bring to public life, rather than to require that people leave their deepest moral convictions outside politics before they enter.”

  • Sam Richards, A radical experiment in empathy, TED-Ed (18:07). Sociologist Sam Richards leads us through an illuminating exercise in seeing things from a radically different point of view. In order to truly understand people, Richards argues, we need to make an effort to step outside our own perspective and explore what it’s like to be in their shoes.

Essays and Articles
  • Before you judge, seek to understand by Melissa Chu (2019). Did you know that the invention of the cheeseburger was initially met with a tremendous amount of skepticism? Chu explains that it’s easy for us to pass judgment on ideas and perspectives that are unfamiliar. But if we challenge ourselves to understand where people are coming from, we open ourselves up to valuable insights and illuminating experiences.
  • How filter bubbles distort reality: Everything you need to know by Farnam Street (2017). This eye-opening article explains the broad impact of “filter bubbles,” where online algorithms steer our attention towards some things and away from others. When different people encounter different information and experiences online, we can each get locked into seeing things from just one perspective. The article offers concrete steps we can take to avoid filter bubbles and take in information representing multiple viewpoints.
  • Politics and personality: Most of what you read is malarkey by Maria Konnikova (2016). Some political psychologists have suggested that people end up on opposite ends of the political spectrum because they have fundamentally different personalities. But a team of researchers counter that personality differences aren’t the cause of our political divisions – we’re actually more alike than we tend to believe.
  • There may be an antidote to politically motivated reasoning. And it’s wonderfully simple by Brian Resnick (2017). Resnick explains that people can develop divergent opinions about a common set of facts through “motivated reasoning,” where they selectively engage with or process information in a way that supports their existing viewpoint. But psychologist Dan Kahan and colleagues have found that people who exercise more curiosity about new ideas and different viewpoints can avoid drawing conclusions that are biased in favor of their own views.
  • A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell (2007). Economist Thomas Sowell offers an enlightening theory about the origin of the political divide. He shows how progressives have–for centuries–held an “unconstrained vision” of human nature: they think that human nature is fundamentally good, and that it is malleable enough that if we can create the right social conditions, we can approach ever closer to a perfect society. They generally favor removing “constraints” on people. Conservatives, in contrast, generally hold the “constrained vision” of human nature. They believe that human nature is morally mixed and morally flawed; people require social constraints in order to behave well. They believe that social traditions and institutions generally provide those constraints, and so they resist progressives’ efforts to change those traditions and institutions.
  • Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers by Kwame Anthony Appiah (2006). Appiah builds toward a theory to resolve serious differences between cultural values in a globalized world. He examines the sources of core beliefs and invites readers to perceive the internal logic, and authentic rationality, behind culturally alien views and practices. He makes the case that moral and religious disagreement between cultures is overstated. This book provides valuable concepts for thinking through how to respond when faced with a radically different, even offensive, cultural value.
  • Don’t Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars by Irshad Manji (2020). In this enjoyable book, Manji addresses the damage we do to each other when we pigeonhole people as belonging to specific demographic or ideological groups. She encourages us to move beyond labeling, and to get genuinely curious about who each of us really is beneath the surface. Importantly, she offers guidance on how to dial down our impulse to react against ideas that challenge our own, so we can truly open ourselves up to real learning.
  • Moral Politics by George Lakoff (1996). Cognitive scientist George Lakoff explains why people come to hold political beliefs as they apply their ideas about the family to the nation. Progressives see the ideal family as one led by a “nurturant parent,” while conservatives have a mental model of the family led by a “strict father.” Along the way, Lakoff explains how people come to hold “mental models” or “frames” that make it easier for them to understand and accept arguments from one side or the other.
  • Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place by Robert B. Talisse. Talisse, a political philosopher, analyzes the intense political polarization that has emerged in the past few decades. He suggests that one reason for this polarization is that fewer of us are working alongside people who think differently from us, in order to accomplish shared goals for our communities. The less we interact with people who see things differently, the harder it is for us to keep our common humanity and common purposes in focus.
  • The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing us Apart by Bill Bishop (2009). It’s common knowledge that the U.S. has become highly divided across ideological lines – but how did things get this way? Bishop traces the historical patterns that have led Americans to congregate into spaces where we mostly interact with people who are highly similar to us.
  • The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides by Arnold Kling (2017). In this newly revised and expanded edition, economist Arnold Kling explores the “three tribal coalitions” that make up American politics. Kling argues that each political group is like a tribe speaking a different language. The book serves as a guide to help us overcome these barriers and communicate more effectively with one another.
Academic Articles
  • Political sectarianism in America by Eli J. Finkel, Christopher A. Bail, Mina Cikara, Peter H. Ditto, Shanto Iyengar, Samara Klar, Lilliana Mason, Mary C. McGrath, Brendan Nyhan, David G. Rand, Linda J. Skitka, Joshua A. Tucker, Jay J. Van Bavel, Cynthia S. Wang, James N. Druckman (2020).
Other Sources
  • To Promote American Diversity, Irshad Manji Says, Resist Labels And Listen, WBUR Radio (46:22). In this interview, author Irshad Manji explains what we can do to dispel our misconceptions about each other and see each person for the individual that they truly are. If we want other people to hear us out, we have to extend them the courtesy of listening closely to learn about what they believe and why.
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