Correcting misperceptions of fundamental differences between polarised groups: Some hope-inspiring effects

Lukas Wolf, Paul H. P. Hanel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perceived polarization between US Democratic and Republican voters has grown over past decades, and this polarization underpins a dwindling sense of hope about the future. Contrary to this trend, the present three experiments (one pre-registered) with 2,529 US participants found substantial similarities between the groups in their fundamental values. We tested whether depicting these real value similarities in overlapping distributions can correct misperceptions of group differences and increase hope. Republicans and Democrats who saw overlapping distributions perceived the groups as more similar and expressed more hope in open-ended comments, compared to seeing commonly-used barplots or receiving no information. The effect on qualitative hope was partially explained by a sense of shared reality and potential for compromise between groups. We call on the social sciences to report the amount of group overlap when communicating research findings on group comparisons to the media and public to help reduce harmful perceptions of polarization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Publication statusAcceptance date - 5 Jun 2024

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