The study sheds light on how personal similarities can help foster a sense of community of political beliefs.

Heidelberg [Germany13 February (ANI) Heidelberg, Germany, February 12, (ANI) normal to feel connected to those who are similar to us, and especially those with similar interests or participate in similar activities. This feeling of belonging can be channeled into reducing political divisions and creating an agreement on political conflicts. This was the conclusion reached by an international group of researchers headed by Dr. Stefano Balietti.

Dr. Balietti is a social scientist at Heidelberg University who uses computer-based methods to study the human behavior of groups. With the help of US research scientists at the University of California in Santa Cruz, Microsoft Research in New York, and the University of Pennsylvania, the study is published in “PNAS.”.

In the study conducted online with individuals from the United States, the scientists investigated why individuals change their attitudes toward a particular issue. In the findings, having points of commonality helps people move toward each other regardless of politically divisive issues and even their personal beliefs.

“Scholars have always believed that the casual, respectful discussion between people with different political opinions enhances confidence in democracy and avoids social divide. This is particularly true of conversations between those with a common interest and similar social backgrounds.

“Conversely, when people are suddenly confronted with the political view of strangers, as particularly happens in the social media, the resultant discussions often take a negative turn,” explained Dr. Balietti, who is a researcher with the Alfred Weber Institute for Economics of Heidelberg University and a fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES).

In their study, Dr. Balietti and his coworkers explored the issue of whether people shift their attitudes towards controversial political problems based on their connections even when they are not in contact.

The researchers created an online study that focuses on inequality and redistribution. The initial phase started by interviewing participants about their traits, political beliefs, and the theme of the study. Then, they wrote a short written argumentative essay to convince “a friend” to assimilate their views on inequalities and the distribution of redistribution.

A second stage was carried out six months later, with an entirely new cohort of people. Through algorithms, the participants were assigned to a person from the first group of the study by a combination of incidental similarities such as gender, age, interest, or other characteristics, as in their attitudes towards the subject of study. They were provided with computer-generated social profiles of the friend and a list of things they shared in common and wrote their essays. Then, the researchers asked their two participants about their views of the topic they were studying and their feelings of being close toward each other.

“Surprisingly, the participants who held strong convictions and those with moderate convictions altered their opinions about the issue in line with the opinions of their partners independent of their political views. This resulted in a reduction in polarisation and, in general, the increase in support for redistributive policies,” Dr. Balietti stated in the report.

If two people felt they were close due to similarities in their characteristics and traits, the likelihood of them absorbing the views of their partners increased by 86 percent. In the longer term, researchers hope to find out if this method based on random connections can also be utilized to develop social media platforms that can counter hatred and misinformation and encourage constructive discussion and consensus-building. (ANI)

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