Our social unity is under attack from extremists on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Often the loudest and most influential public voices today are also the most divisive. Amid the din of conflicting claims, accusations, and counteraccusations, voices of moderation can no longer be heard. Radical speech is creating hazards for civil discourse and even for governance. Under such conditions, how will we ever find common ground to advance the needs of the nation?
Psychologist John W. Reich presents answers to this question in this insightful discussion of the social-science research on the decision-making processes of those who endorse extremist beliefs. A key finding of this research is that extremism causes selective hearing and biases our very ability to form objective judgments. In fact, radical speech leads to radical hearing and impedes our willingness to consider moderate viewpoints.
Based on these findings, Reich presents seven principles whereby we can reduce or eliminate the toxic influences of extremist rhetoric and selective hearing. These include becoming aware of how emotion affects our judgments, accepting the fact that we live in a diverse society where differing points of view are common, and detecting when extremist rhetoric is designed solely to attack its opponents.
If knowledge is power, then the best antidote to toxic speech is increased scientific understanding of how our judgments are formed. By making the latest social-science research on this important subject accessible, "Radical Distortion" takes a crucial first step toward creating a more civil society.
About the Author
John W. Reich (Tempe, AZ) is emeritus professor of psychology at Arizona State University. He is the author of "Experimenting in Society" and the editor of two books: "Handbook of Adult Resilience" (with Alex J. Zautra and John S. Hall) and "Handbook of Resilience Approaches to Stress and Trauma" (with Martha Kent and Mary C. Davis).
"Radical Distortion is a fascinating, scholarly, and highly accessible book that provides much-needed perspective on the nature of radical hearing and the psychological and social factors that influence the type of radical posturing that is corroding our social unity and our capacity for collaboration and cooperation. . . . This timely book is a useful resource for anyone seeking to foster collaboration and cooperation in society."
- Dr. Michael Hogan, Lecturer in psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, and author of The Culture of Our Thinking in Relation to Spirituality
"Reich's deep insight into the nature of 'radical hearing' is a milestone in our search for the alleviation of human conflict. This book should be mandatory reading . . . especially for those who are guiding the progress of our society. Highly recommended!"
-William R. Uttal, Professor emeritus, Arizona State University and University of Michigan