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Computing Scenarios for Defusing Polarized Politics

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Studies have confirmed a troubling rise in extreme polarization across the U.S.

Credit: Katie Mogg

Arizona State University's Stephanie Forrest and Joshua Daymude partnered with the University of Michigan's Robert Axelrod to explore political polarization in the U.S. and possible preventive approaches via agent-based modeling.

The researchers' Attraction-Repulsion Model facilitates polarization cause-effect linkage, based on principles that people typically interact with others who are similar, while engagement between dissimilar people drives them apart.

The model verified that high levels of intolerance between divergent groups is integral to intensifying extremism and ideological polarization, yet not all extremism exacerbates polarization.

This suggests grouping people who espouse divergent attitudes with stubbornly intolerant individuals may worsen polarization, while "strictly limiting exposure to dissimilar views could be an effective mechanism for avoiding rapid polarization," Daymude said.

The researchers believe their findings could help inform policies and protocols for resolving differences.

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