Improving relations among conservatives and liberals on a college campus: A preliminary trial of a contextual-behavioral intervention

Katherine E. Manbeck, Jonathan W. Kanter, Adam M. Kuczynski, Lauren Fine, Mariah D.Corey, Daniel W. M. Maitland

The US has never been more divided politically. Polarization is notable on majority-liberal college campuses where conservatives feel outnumbered and marginalized. In this study, we examined the effectiveness of a half-day workshop to decrease polarization and improve closeness between conservatives and liberals at a majority-liberal college campus. Informed by political psychology and relationship science, the intervention employed exercises derived from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy to encourage identification of core beliefs and vulnerable discussions of deeper reasons for core political beliefs aimed at generating closeness and understanding between participants. Participants (N = 20) were assigned to 2 groups: one of mixed conservatives and liberals, and one of all liberals. All participants reported improvements in attitudes and hostility towards outgroup members from pre- to post-workshop, but only differences in relations with specific outgroup workshop participants were maintained at 1-month follow-up. Participants also reported arguing less than expected.

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