Is polarisation an emotional response to the state of the world? Alex Evans thinks so. This week he talks to Turi about taking a psychological approach to our social divide.
S2 E18: Polarisation on the Couch
“Our inner and outer crises are two sides of the same coin”
There are many lenses through which to explain polarisation - economic, political, demographic, evolutionary… Alex Evans wants us to consider it from a psychological perspective.
Alex has campaigned around inclusion and social justice for two decades, but researchers in Israel changed his mind about social fracture. Polarisation between Israelis and Palestinians is a mental health issue - driven by ongoing trauma, anxiety, hyper-vigilance and threat perception.
If democracy depends on citizens who can manage their mental and emotional states, feel empathy for each other, and share a sense of common identity and purpose, we need to address our inner worlds as much as the outer one.
“The state of the mind and the state of the world intersect”
Larger Us, his campaigning organisation, puts psychology at the very heart of its approach to curing our social divide.
Listen to Alex explain how society - both governments and individuals - can move from fight/flight to self-awareness and empathy, from powerlessness to agency, from disconnection and loneliness to belonging.
“The Religion-shaped hole in society has also had a massive impact on Polarisation”
Along the way, he also discusses:
- The changing role of Religion in society
- Collective Psychology
- How ‘spirituality’ gave up on social justice
- When polarisation is good
- And how we can move from an Us-vs-Them to a ‘Larger Us’ Society
“We really have to come together to tackle these crises but our capacity to do so is being eroded by our emotional responses.”
Works cited include:
- Johann Hari’s Lost Connections
- Jurgen Habermas on Democratic Polarisation
- Robert Wright’s Non-Zero
- Richard Layard on Happiness
- David Bohm on Dialogue
Read the Full Transcript
Alex founded the Collective Psychology Project in 2018, which then became Larger Us in 2021. He is the author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough?, and is a Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation.
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