The Roots of Polarization


In this episode of The Power of Us podcast—the first of a special two-part series—host Tavia Gilbert presents interviews with psychologists Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Packer (co-authors of The Power of Us), along with Ethical Systems’ Alison Taylor, among others. Together, the guests explain polarization and explores its causes and effects.

Dominic Packer studies how social identities—people’s conceptions of themselves grounded in the groups they belong to—influence conformity and dissent, intergroup relations, solidarity and social change, public health, and leadership. He is particularly interested in relationships between institutions and identities, and their implications for issues ranging from discrimination to privacy to behaving badly online. In 2021, Packer published his first book with longtime collaborator (and grad school officemate), Jay Van Bavel. The Power of Us received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and a warm review in ScienceHe and Van Bavel were awarded the William James Award from the American Psychological Association for the best book of 2021.

Jay Van Bavel is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, an affiliate at the Stern School of Business in Management and Organizations, Director of the Social Identity & Morality Lab, and co-author of The Power of Us. From neurons to social networks, Van Bavel’s research examines how collective concerns—group identities, moral values, and political beliefs—shape the mind, brain, and behavior. His work addresses issues of group identity, social motivation, cooperation, implicit bias, moral judgment, decision-making, and social media. He studies these issues using a combination of neuroimaging, lesion patients, social cognition, behavioral economics, global surveys, and computational social science. Van Bavel has published over 100 academic publications, and has consulted with the White HouseUnited NationsEuropean Union, and World Health Organization on issues related to his research.