Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Paradoxical thinking intervention can moderate attitudes in violent times

Hameiri et al. show how attitudes of those participating in one of the most intractable conflicts in the world can be moderated. I pass on their description of the paradoxical thinking technique employed, and then their abstract:
Paradoxical thinking is “the attempt to change attitudes using new information, which is consistent with the held societal beliefs, but of extreme content that is intended to lead an individual to paradoxically perceive his/her currently held societal beliefs or the current situation as irrational and senseless”. It is based on the classic debating technique, reductio ad absurdum, as well as on practical knowledge accumulated in clinical psychological treatments. These treatments suggest that the extreme content can range from blatant extremity to more subtle exaggerations, or amplifications, of held attitudes and beliefs and extrapolating from them absurd conclusions.
The authors did a large-scale study examining a multichanneled large-scale intervention targeting an entire city in the center of Israel.
...it was intentionally designed to be completely unobtrusive. Specifically, participants did not receive any external motivation to be exposed to the campaign materials and were completely unaware of the connection between the surveys they were requested to answer and the campaign, which took place in their home city. Second, to boost statistical power, our initial samples were quite large. Finally, during the intervention campaign (September–October 2015), the Knife Intifada erupted, with assaults taking place in major cities all over Israel, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. This violent escalation provided us with the unfortunate context needed to test whether the paradoxical thinking intervention would also be effective in the face of highly negative conflict-related developments that sparked fear and constant threat.
They used multichannel intervention, online video clips, video banners, billboards, posters balloons, and brochures in a six week campaign in a small city in the center of Israel with ~25,000 inhabitants. For example,
During the 6 wk of the campaign, the campaign included the following five short 20-s video clips: 
i) “For the heroes,” see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWoMSv3eXCc (text translates to “Without it we wouldn’t have had heroes ... For the heroes, we probably need the conflict”). 
ii) “For the army,” see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIfXYu60LJE (text translates to “Without it we wouldn’t have had the strongest army in the world ... For the army, we probably need the conflict”). 
iii) “For unity,” see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-HEWpDhMYg (text translates to “Without it we wouldn’t have united against a common enemy ... For unity, we probably need the conflict”). 
iv) “For justice,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWSJARJk7Q8 (text translates to “Without it we would never be just ... For justice, we probably need the conflict”). 
v) “For morality,” see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTpn5aVBHbI (text translates to “Without it we would never be moral ... For morality, we probably need the conflict”).
Messages on "The Conflict" t-shirts, balloons, and 4,000 brochures:
Imagine for a second
our life here without the conflict:
Without the myths we grew up on,
without a strong army and heroic soldiers,
without “The Peace Party” and “The National Party”…
How will we be “just” without the rockets
that they fire at us from their schools?
How will we be “united”
if we don’t have a common enemy
that gathers us all
in the stairway hall when there’s an alarm?
What would the “leftists” and “rightists” do?
What would Roni Daniel (an Israeli TV military correspondent) do?
Will he cover the story about a young hippo
that was born in the Ramat Gan safari? [in Hebrew the last sentence rhymes]
The Conflict (Logo)
We all want peace.
But more than we want peace,
We probably
Need the conflict
Finally, here is the article's abstract:
In the current paper, we report a large-scale randomized field experiment, conducted among Jewish Israelis during widespread violence. The study examines the effectiveness of a “real world,” multichanneled paradoxical thinking intervention, with messages disseminated through various means of communication (i.e., online, billboards, flyers). Over the course of 6 wk, we targeted a small city in the center of Israel whose population is largely rightwing and religious. Based on the paradoxical thinking principles, the intervention involved transmission of messages that are extreme but congruent with the shared Israeli ethos of conflict. To examine the intervention’s effectiveness, we conducted a large-scale field experiment (prepost design) in which we sampled participants from the city population (n = 215) and compared them to a control condition (from different places of residence) with similar demographic and political characteristics (n = 320). Importantly, participants were not aware that the intervention was related to the questionnaires they answered. Results showed that even in the midst of a cycle of ongoing violence within the context of one of the most intractable conflicts in the world, the intervention led hawkish participants to decrease their adherence to conflict-supporting attitudes across time. Furthermore, compared with the control condition, hawkish participants that were exposed to the paradoxical thinking intervention expressed less support for aggressive policies that the government should consider as a result of the escalation in violence and more support for conciliatory policies to end the violence and promote a long-lasting agreement.

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