Polarization Processes


Like the North Pole and the South Pole or the opposite ends of a magnet, poles represent extreme endpoints, and polarization indicates movement toward those extremes. In psychological terms, polarization processes describe movement in individuals' views toward opposite extremes. For example, imagine a group of individuals that includes both moderate supporters and moderate opponents of abortion, and imagine they engage in a discussion of the issue. Imagine further that each side then becomes more extreme in its respective support of, or opposition to, abortion. That movement to more extreme positions is said to reflect polarization because each side has moved to a more extreme pole or endpoint on the relevant continuum. In social psychology, polarization processes have been studied in three domains: group decision ...

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