Comment author: Elliek 19 October 2017 04:03:55PM 0 points [-]

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Comment author: DavidNash 19 October 2017 12:40:30PM 0 points [-]

I think most people that write about this subject don't take a step back and look at the historical context and general trends in society, which makes it really hard to work out what's going on.

It's hard to tell from just observing the news how views/public opinion are trending, if the number of the KKK has gone from 3000 to 300, but we only start interviewing and televising them at the 300 level, it will appear as if they are more present in society than in the past.

One study of polarisation (which in some ways is similar to tribalism) shows that polarisation could be increasing the most in older generations, who use the internet least. This might suggest that as people come online, we're hearing more from a more polarised generation, who before the internet, wouldn't be letting people know about their views as much.

Here is another post about how we may start to interpret events in one way even if it doesn't match trends. It seems like a lot of people are now focused on the far right/extremism and tribalism, when they weren't before the election.

Comment author: MikeJohnson 18 October 2017 11:38:59PM *  0 points [-]

QRI is very interested and working hard on the mental health cause area; notable documents are Quantifying Bliss and Wireheading Done Right - more to come soon. There are also other good things in this space from e.g. Michael D. Plant, Spencer Greenberg, and perhaps Enthea.

On the tribalism point, I agree tribalism causes a lot of problems; I'd also agree with what I take you to be saying that in some senses it may be a load-bearing part of an Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS) which may prove troublesome to tinker with. Finally, I agree that mental health is a potentially upstream factor in some of the negative-sum presentations of tribalism.

I would say it's unclear at this point whether the EA movement has the plasticity required to make mental health an Official Cause Area -- I believe the leadership is interested but "revealed constraints" seem to tell a mixed story. I'm certainly hoping it'll happen if enough people get together to 'start the party'.

(Personal opinions; not necessarily shared by others at QRI)

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 18 October 2017 10:18:54PM 1 point [-]

Update: I checked with the study author and he confirmed that "relationships" on p. 5 is the same as "social effects" in Table 5.

Comment author: zdgroff 18 October 2017 08:47:46PM 1 point [-]

I've had this instinct myself for a while and blogged about it today ( I'm quite sympathetic to Pinker's thesis but becoming less sympathetic with each passing day. (Maybe I just need to reread the book.)

Do you think tribalism is indeed getting better, and even if so, do you think its rate of decrease might be slowing given the rise of far right populism and leftist identity politics? Articles like this make me worried:

Comment author: Tuukka_Sarvi 18 October 2017 06:42:46PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for the post Kaj. I agree that this is a high priority area.

"By tribalism, I basically mean the phenomenon where arguments and actions are primarily evaluated based on who makes them and which group they seem to support, not anything else. "

I think tribalism could be described as a class of (largely biased) decision and judgement heuristics. It might be helpful to investigate why a person chooses to use such heuristics.

At least, as a heuristic it is much less cognitively taxing than the alternative of trying to figure things out by oneself, or looking for expert opinions. Also, it is uncomfortable for many people to challenge one's beliefs or belonginess to a group. These underlying factors suggest possible avenues for interventions and preventions.

Comment author: itaibn 18 October 2017 06:16:54PM *  0 points [-]

First, I consider our knowledge of psychology today to be roughly equivalent to that of alchemists when alchemy was popular. Like with alchemy, our main advantage over previous generations is that we're doing lots of experiments and starting to notice vague patterns, but we still don't have any systematic or reliable knowledge of what is actually going on. It is premature to seriously expect to change human nature.

Improving our knowledge of psychology to the point where we can actually figure things out could have a major positive effect on society. The same could be said for other branches of science. I think basic science is a potentially high-value cause, but I don't see why psychology should be singled out.

Second, this cause is not neglected. It is one of the major issues intellectuals have been grappling with for centuries or more. Framing the issue in terms of "tribalism" may be a novelty, but I don't see it as an improvement.

Finally, I'm not saying that there's nothing the effective altruism community can do about tribalism. I'm saying I don't see how this post is helping.

edit: As an aside, I'm now wondering if I might be expressing the point too rudely, especially the last paragraph. I hope we manage to communicate effectively in spite of any mistakes on my part.

Comment author: Halstead 18 October 2017 04:49:44PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for posting this. I agree this is a hugely neglected issue. It would be good to see a more coherent and sustained movement towards reducing this problem.

Anyone wanting to learn more should read Dan Kahan.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 18 October 2017 03:22:04PM 1 point [-]

There seem to be a lot of leads that could help us figure out the high-value interventions, though: i) knowledge about what causes it and what has contributed to changes of it over time ii) research directions that could help further improve our understanding of what causes it / what doesn't cause it iii) various interventions which already seem like they work in a small-scale setting, though it's still unclear how they might be scaled up (e.g. something like Crucial Conversations is basically about increasing trust and safety in one-to-one and small-group conversations) iv) and of course psychology in general is full of interesting ideas for improving mental health and well-being that haven't been rigorously tested, which also suggests that v) any meta-work that would improve psychology's research practices would also be even more valuable than we previously thought.

As for the "pointing out a problem people have been aware of for millenia", well, people have been aware of global poverty for millenia too. Then we got science and randomized controlled trials and all the stuff that EAs like, and got better at fixing the problem. Time to start looking at how we could apply our improved understanding of this old problem, to fixing it.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 18 October 2017 03:12:41PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the reference! That sounds valuable.

Comment author: Milan_Griffes 18 October 2017 02:33:38PM *  0 points [-]

I think the "altruism" measure is an aggregate of some of the "persisting effects questionnaire" questions. (p. 5)

Not sure if it maps directly to the relationships portion of that questionnaire, but I bet it does (all of the other categories on p. 5 cleanly map to results in Table 5, so by elimination "relationships" = "altruistic / positive social effects" )

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 18 October 2017 01:59:12PM 1 point [-]

Do you know how they measured altruism? It seems like maybe they are using "altruism" as a synonym for the "relationships" questionnaire?

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 18 October 2017 01:08:36PM 0 points [-]

In fact a more general version of the above question is:

What are the existing research / consultancy / etc disciplines that are most similar to the kind of work you are looking for?

If you can identify that it could help people in local communities direct people to this kind of work.

Comment author: itaibn 18 October 2017 11:35:55AM 0 points [-]

I don't see any high-value interventions here. Simply pointing out a problem people have been aware of for millenia will not help anyone.

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 18 October 2017 08:54:48AM 0 points [-]

Quick question: Is your term "disentanglement research" similar to the discipline of "systems thinking" and what are the differences? (Trying to get to grips with what you mean by "disentanglement research" ) (

Comment author: DavidMoss 17 October 2017 08:11:04PM *  2 points [-]

Feelings of safety or threat seem to play a lot into feelings of tribalism: if you perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that a group Y is out to get you and that they are a real threat to you, then you will react much more aggressively to any claims that might be read as supporting Y.

This sounds roughly supported by Karen Stenner's work in The Authoritarian Dynamic which argues that "political intolerance, moral intolerance and punitiveness" are increased by perceived levels of threat.

Your comments about increasing happiness and comfort are particularly striking in light of this opinionated description (from a review) of the different groups (based on interviews):

Authoritarians tended to be closed-minded, unintelligent, lacking in self-confidence, unhappy, unfriendly, unsophisticated, inarticulate, and generally unappealing. Libertarians tended toward the opposite; they seemed happy, gregarious, relaxed, warm, open, thoughtful, eloquent, and humble.

That said I am sceptical prime facie that any positive psychology interventions would be powerful enough at producing these effects to be warranted on these grounds.

Comment author: nonzerosum 17 October 2017 06:48:23PM *  2 points [-]

Interesting post.

The first thought that came to my mind is related to the other post on this forum about psychedelics.

My interpretation is therapeutic psilocybin experiences can create a feeling of all being part of the same team / global interconnectedness. I wonder if this would lead to less tribalism. It seems like it very well may.

"In 6-month follow-up interviews, participants were asked: ‘Did this treatment work for you, and if so how?’ and responses were analysed for consistent themes (Watts et al. 2017). Of the 17 patients who endorsed the treatment’s effectiveness, all made reference to one particular mediating factor: a renewed sense of connection or connectedness. This factor was found to have three distinguishable aspects: connection to (1) self, (2) others and (3) the world in general (Watts et al. 2017)."

References via a friend.

Comment author: DavidMoss 17 October 2017 06:29:31PM *  1 point [-]

Debates sound useful, although it would be great to think of something functionally similar, but without the oppositional/competitive aspect of the debate. I think a lot of EA's would benefit from debates, but for some it would probably increase their cause partisanship and easy dismissal of other causes.

Some other things which could be useful:

  • Involving EAs in structured giving games with a deliberative democratic component where they had to evaluate different causes. This could be structured something like Tom's project here- though it would have to avoid the relativism/disinclination to think about or challenge other people's causes noted in (7.2).
  • Red teaming causes (
  • Involving non-supporters of a particular cause in evaluating and selecting interventions within that cause. At the moment the people evaluating (interventions within) causes tend to be supporters of those causes. This naturally encourages wild one-sided over-optimism about your preferred cause and a lack of interest beyond that cause.
Comment author: Khorton 17 October 2017 08:53:47AM 0 points [-]

This was very informative. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 17 October 2017 07:23:22AM 1 point [-]

Could public debates be helpful for this?

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