Are Individuals More Objectivist After Arguing to Win Rather Than to Learn?

That's the claim in a recent article published in Scientific American under the title "Tribalism of Truth." You can find it behind a paywall here

Here are a couple of interesting excerpts:

The divergence of Americans’ ideology is accompanied by an animosity for those across the aisle. Recent polls show that partisan liberals and conservatives associate with one another less frequently, have unfavorable views of the opposing party, and would even be unhappy if a family member married someone from the other side. At the same time, the rise of social media has revolutionized how information is consumed – news is often personalized to one’s political preferences. Rival perspectives can be completely shut out from one’s self-created media bubble. Making matters worse, outrage-inducing content is more likely to spread on these platforms, creating a breeding ground for click-bate headlines and fake news. The toxic online environment is very likely driving Americans further apart and fostering unproductive exchanges.

In this time of rising tribalism, an important question has arisen about the psychological effects of arguing to win. What happens in our minds – and to our minds – when we find ourselves conversing in a way that simply aims to defeat an opponent? Our recent research has explored this question using experimental methods, and we have found that the distinction between different modes of argument has some surprisingly far-reaching effects. Not only does it change people’s way of thinking about debate and the people on the opposing side, but it also has a more fundamental effect on our way of understanding the very issue under discussion.

We are, in essence, moving away from each other by turning from discussion to argument. We are drawing battle lines rather than moving to cooperate.

As I’ve suggested before, the ways in which we communicate is critical to our ability to sympathize. And this has significant implications for our ability to successfully self-govern.

The authors of this article suggest that discussing to learn generates more understanding between groups whereas arguing to win does the opposite.

Here’s more:

After the conversation [about a contentious issue] was over, we asked participants whether they thought there was an objective truth about the topics they had just debated. Strikingly, these 15-minute exchanges actually shifted people’s views. Individuals were more objectivist after arguing to win than they were after arguing to learn. In other words, the social context of the discussion – how people frame the purpose of controversial discourse – actually changed their opinions on the deeply philosophical question about whether there is an objective truth at all.