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The Hope And Horror Of Us-Versus-Them Thinking (Part 1 Of 2)

Republicans versus Democrats.

Trumpers versus Never-Trump.

White supremacists versus Black Lives Matter.

In today’s hyper-polarized world, you don’t have to look far for evidence of us-versus-them thinking. Simply turn on the news or log in to Facebook or Twitter to find heated battles on everything from politics to social issues to what color that viral dress really was.

Indeed, it can be easy to take a polarized view on polarization and “us-versus-them-ism” itself, with many people decrying how far apart we’ve become on seemingly everything, and how this growing divide is a bad thing.

But I don’t think it’s so simple. In fact, I see us-versus-them thinking as simultaneously the greatest accelerator and destroyer of human progress, a true double-edged sword that can win wars or create them where there’s no need. This is the “hope and horror” of us-versus-them.

First, let’s consider the good part, the hope-inspiring part.

Humans make progress through organizations, or collections of people bound together by shared vision, values, purpose, and belief. We are a team-based society, whether we’re talking sports (LeBron James, Tom Brady, and other superstars can’t succeed without their teams), entertainment (think about how many people are needed to create a feature film or TV series), or even science (where research shows the most innovative scientific work relies increasingly on teams).

That means the “Great Man” theory of the past — that “natural” leaders singlehandedly drive key changes to the course of history—fails to capture the primacy of teams in human progress. Even brilliant, seemingly solo scientists like Einstein need a scientific community in which to share their ideas, hear critiques, and go back to the proverbial drawing board with even greater direction and inspiration. Same for “great people” in any domain.

Thus teamwork is the driving engine and accelerator of advancement across all areas of human endeavor. And what drives such collaboration? Us-versus-them thinking, largely.

Research shows that collectives thrive in the presence of a shared enemy: a group’s focus on their task, along with the psychological experience of cohesion and identity, increases in the presence of a common enemy, for greater performance.   

A classic demonstration of this was provided by the psychologist Muzafer Sherif in the 1950s. In what became known as the Robbers Cave field experiment, 22 11-year-old boys were sent to a summer camp in Oklahoma’s Robbers Cave State Park. They were split randomly into two groups for which they chose names (e.g.., The Eagles). The groups bonded while hiking, swimming, and enjoying other activities. Then they took part in a four-day series of inter-group competitions. In line with research findings, both groups’ cohesion fueled their efforts to beat the other group, demonstrating the power of us-versus-them thinking.

But the Robbers Cave experiment also shows the dark side of us-versus-them. Sherif found evidence of deep prejudice between the groups, as manifest in physical and verbal conflict during the competitions. Afterward, when asked to describe their group and the other, the boys used very favorable terms for their

One dead as part of building collapses at Western Australia university

A collapsed building at Curtin University in Perth, Australia October 13, 2020 is seen in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. Wamn News/via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) – One person died on Tuesday after part of a building collapsed at a Curtin University campus in Western Australia, with images online also showing a glass ceiling under construction had crashed.

A spokeswoman for St John Ambulance told Reuters that one person died following the collapse at the Bentley campus in Perth and two men in their 20s have been hospitalised with “multiple injuries.”

Curtin University said in a statement the collapse occurred at a building site under construction and that no students or staff were involved in the incident.

Media images and videos showed a glass ceiling at the building had crashed on to a construction vehicle.

A reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corp at the site said the collapse occurred during the installation of the glass roof out the front of the building.

The building is part of a project called The Exchange, which includes a hotel, student accommodation and retail, according to The West Australian.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

Source Article

For the most part, Boston College football has passed the stress tests

On their way to starting the season 3-1 — the latest win being Saturday’s thrilling 31-30 victory in overtime against Pittsburgh last Saturday at Alumni Stadium — the Eagles have put themselves in situations where their fate has hung on every play.

In a 24-21 home win over Texas State, the Eagles crafted a comeback in the fourth quarter and won it on Aaron Boumerhi’s 36-yard field goal with three seconds left. The following week, in a 26-22 setback against North Carolina, quarterback Phil Jurkovec marched the Eagles 69 yards in 15 plays and capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Lewis to pull them within 2 with 45 seconds left. Calamity ensued on the 2-point conversion attempt when Jurkovec’s pass was intercepted and returned 98 yards for a “Pick-2.”

Then, on Saturday against Pitt, the Eagles ran off the field in celebration after Panthers kicker Alex Kessman, who converted a 58-yard attempt at the end of regulation to send the game into OT, missed a routine extra point that would have tied it at 31.

Pittsburgh kicker Alex Kessman misses an extra point attempt wide right that would have tied the game in OT.
Pittsburgh kicker Alex Kessman misses an extra point attempt wide right that would have tied the game in OT.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The wins make the drama worth it, but if they came with a little less stress, Hafley would take it.

“Do I wish every game came down to the last play?” Hafley said. “Not unless you could guarantee me we were going to win all of them.”

In order to pull out wins when every moment seems loaded with intensity, the Eagles have had to lean on a level of poise. They’ve made mistakes — from untimely penalties to missed tackles to missed assignments — but they can’t crumble and turn on each other when they do.

“I just think it goes back to the way we approach practice and the way we approach the game,” Hafley said. “We don’t coach tight, we don’t play tight, we don’t yell and scream at the players on the sideline during the game and get them all uptight, whether they drop the ball or get a [pass interference].

“We want our players to just be loose and play fearless. I think when you do that, and create the culture, I think when it comes down at the end, I just think you see more energy, more juice, more trust in each other and confidence.”

What allows Hafley and the Eagles to play freely on game day is an assurance that they’ve done all the work they can during the week to prepare.

Jeff Hafley looks on during the first half of BC's recent win over Pitt.
Jeff Hafley looks on during the first half of BC’s recent win over Pitt.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

“That’s my philosophy,” Hafley said. “During practice, yeah, we’re going to get on guys — hard. Our work week is hard. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are hard. We coach hard and we’re demanding and we’re hard in the meetings.

“But that’s our time to coach hard, right? So, by the time we get

Game ‘pre-bunks’ COVID-19 conspiracies as part of UK’s fight against fake news

Game 'pre-bunks' COVID-19 conspiracies as part of UK's fight against fake news
Go Viral! visuals Credit: Cambridge/UK Cabinet Office

A new online game that puts players in the shoes of a purveyor of fake pandemic news is the latest tactic in efforts to tackle the deluge of coronavirus misinformation costing lives across the world.

The Go Viral! game has been developed by the University of Cambridge’s Social Decision-Making Lab in collaboration with the UK Cabinet Office and media collective DROG.

It builds on research from Cambridge psychologists that found by giving people a taste of the techniques used to spread fake news on social media, it increases their ability to identify and disregard misinformation in the future.

Go Viral! is launched on the heels of a new study from the team behind it, just published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. The latest findings show that a single play of a similar game can reduce susceptibility to false information for at least three months.

“Fake news can travel faster and lodge itself deeper than the truth,” said Dr. Sander van der Linden, who leads the project and the Social Decision-Making Lab at Cambridge.

“Fact-checking is vital, but it comes too late and lies have already spread like the virus. We are aiming to pre-emptively debunk, or pre-bunk, misinformation by exposing people to a mild dose of the methods used to disseminate fake news. It’s what social psychologists call ‘inoculation theory’.”

The new 5-7 minute game introduces players to the basics of online manipulation in the era of coronavirus. It acts as a simple guide to common techniques: using emotionally charged language to stoke outrage and fear, deploying fake experts to sow doubt, and mining conspiracies for social media Likes.

“By using a simulated environment to show people how misinformation is produced, we can demystify it,” said Dr. Jon Roozenbeek, co-developer of Go Viral! and researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. “The game empowers people with the tools they need to discern fact from fiction.”

Go Viral! is based on a pre-COVID iteration, Bad News, which has been played over a million times since its 2018 launch. Cambridge researchers developed and tested Bad News, and found that just one play reduced perceived reliability of fake news by an average of 21% compared to a control group.

The research team, including DROG and designers Gusmanson (who also worked on Go Viral!), argue that this neutralising effect can contribute to a societal resistance to fake news when played by many thousands of people.

These initial results were confirmed in an even more rigorous replication study published in January this year. “Our pre-bunk game not only improved people’s ability to spot fake news but also their confidence in judging what is true or false,” said Melisa Basol, a Cambridge Gates Scholar who led the study.

“This confidence boost only occurred for those who got better at accurately identifying misinformation. By exposing people to the tactics behind fake news we can help create a general ‘inoculation’, rather than trying to counter each specific falsehood.”