Radical Distortion

How Emotions Warp What We Hear

By John W. Reich
(Prometheus Books, Paperback, 9781616146580, 248pp.)

Publication Date: September 2012

List Price: $19.00*
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Description
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.
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