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To Rescue Democracy, Go Outside

December 12, 2016


In the October 16, 2016 issue of Nautilus magazine, MIT IDE  leader and Director of the MIT Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs,  Sandy Pentland, wrote that online interactions can only go so far. His research at MIT strongly suggests that “in businesses, on the street, and in peer groups, ideas are shaped more by face-to-face interaction than by digital media.” People’s beliefs and actions, in other words,  “are overwhelmingly determined through social learning from peers, whether we know it or not.”

When we interact through social media, Pentland says, “we self-identify and seek out like opinions. In real life, we have less control over that selection—we never know who we’ll run into.”  As a reuslt, physical interactions are much better at changing opinions than digital media. “Studies show such interactions produce better learning outcomes, a greater chance of reaching consensus, and greater satisfaction in workplace teams.


On Facebook, users of a given persuasion have few friends of the opposite persuasion (top panel), and share little content with them (bottom panel).


Read the full article here and read on Medium, here.