Affective Polarization Is Making Us Dumber
Last month, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University announced that it was laying off almost all of its staff, in spite of having received almost $55 million in funds in the last three years. Critics have jumped on Kendi’s fall to renew arguments that he’s a grifter or a “midwit,” but there’s another underappreciated aspect to Kendi’s fall. Kendi always struck me as someone who had the raw intellectual horsepower to succeed but whose rigid ideology pushed him toward ideas and solutions that were farther and farther from reality. In that way, his fall represents a cautionary tale for all of us.
A few years ago, a landmark study published by Cambridge University Press claimed that our rigid ideologies could actually be making us dumber. The study’s authors gave conservatives and liberals a math problem about gun violence. The liberals were given a problem that, when solved, showed that gun control didn’t work. The conservatives were given a different version of the same problem that, when solved, showed that gun control did work. In both cases, the solution was counterintuitive, meaning that participants had to dig to get the right answer. The study also had a control group w
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