Improving Civil Discourse: The Role of Communication Medium in Conflict Resolution


Thursday, September 23, 2021, 4:00pm to 5:15pm


Conflict and Depolarization Seminar
Improving Civil Discourse: The Role of Communication Medium in Conflict Resolution
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Virtual Event
Ideological disagreement between political parties is at record levels in America. Increasingly, people not only disagree with their political opponents but perceive them to be mal-intentioned and mentally deficient, harming the potential for cross-aisle collaboration. To help resolve differences, some have suggested encouraging "civil" conversation among political opponents--but how should a conversation be structured to promote civility? The current research examines the role of communication medium in changing the level of civility in conversations between ideological opponents.  Across five experiments, pairs who spoke (vs. wrote) had more positive impressions of each other, and experienced more responsiveness and less conflict. The effect of medium was robust to how long pairs engaged (e.g., 6 vs. 12 minute conversations) and the level of synchronicity in the interaction (e.g., monologues vs. dialogues). Two follow-up experiments demonstrated that external observers rate spoken conversations as more polite and civil than written conversations. Finally, we partnered with an organization trying to increase civil discourse (Bridge USA) to run a series of field experiments across college campuses (UC Berkeley, ASU, and MNSU). These experiments replicated the prior results and further suggest the effect of medium may be moderated by the extent of disagreement. In aggregate, these data indicate that although people seem to prefer writing to (versus speaking with) an opponent, in fact speaking is a more civil and conflict-reducing form of discourse. 
About the speaker:
Juliana Schroeder is a Professor in the Management of Organizations group at Berkeley Haas. Her research explores how people make social inferences about others. She is a Faculty Affiliate in the Social Psychology Department, the Cognition Department, and the Center for Human-Compatible AI at UC Berkeley. She teaches the Negotiations and Conflict Resolution course at Haas. Read More
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This event will be recorded and may be posted to YouTube and/or CPL's social media channels. Persons with disabilities who wish to request accommodation or who have questions about access, please contact in advance of the session.