Researchers at Penn and beyond are studying affective polarization. PEL continues this work and applies it by equipping Penn students to connect with others by attuning themselves to their own thoughts and feelings as they listen to different points of view. It strives to develop and cultivate practices for both the outer conversation and the inner conversation. These practices and the regular exercise of them, especially the practice of listening, builds social trust and is a necessary precondition for deliberative democracy. Some of the practices are explored, refined, and exercised in the spring course PSCI 4201 Political Empathy and Deliberative Democracy.
Additional practices will be discovered with undergraduates democratically, collaboratively, ethnographically, and inductively through a trip during the Summer of 2024 to visit counties across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania beyond the Philadelphia region. The research experience will consist of several mini trips to encounter Pennsylvanians across the state who hold different socio-political views. This research experience is deliberately not canvasing and not polling (though we will work with Penn’s Public Opinion and Election Studies (PORES) team to inform our practices). It is not intended to extract policy positions from Pennsylvanians but instead to engage with them using specific practices to cultivate emotional regulation while listening to diverse political opinions.1
PEL’s research trip is also not tourism but an opportunity to meet fellow residents of Pennsylvania within the state acknowledging that we experience different lived realities and want to try to better understand each other. The hope is that this experience will sharpen and awaken our intellectual humility and curiosity around ideologies and beliefs that differ from our own. An additional aspiration is that we might understand how place may connect to ideology as well as the role that super-ordinate identities may hold to our sense of belonging. Finally, this trip provides diverse immersive opportunities to regularly exercise our practices around dialogue and engagement.
Why did PEL choose PA?
- 2024 is an Election year and Pennsylvania is a swing state
- This would allow Penn students to encounter “the other side” of issues where there may appear to be consensus at Penn
- This would likewise allow folks in other communities in Pennsylvania to encounter Penn students with the aspiration of dispelling myths about so called “elites”
- Pennsylvania has regional variation and both rural, suburban and urban counties providing an in-depth social and political analysis of one state
- Pennsylvania is the state in which Penn is located. As an institution we often discuss our local identity as Philadelphians but less frequently our identity as Pennsylvanians
Some of these practices will be explored, refined, and exercised in the SNF Paideia spring course, PSCI 4201 Political Empathy and Deliberative Democracy.
To learn more about Political Empathy, listen to our Podcast series on Political Empathy with three episodes, “Political Empathy: American Conservativism, Its Past, Present and Future.”, Political Empathy: Perspectives from Psychology and Urban Studies and Political Empathy: Space, Place and Positionality
Penn Students: Applications to participate in this summer 2024 Research opportunity is available here. The application will be available from December 1, 2023-February 16, 2024.
Everyone Else: For more information about our program, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Political Empathy Lab gratefully acknowledges our funding from the Office of the Provost.