Cognitive Biases, Tribalism and Politics (Part 3 of 3) – How Polarization Makes Us Mean and Stupid


In this set of videos I present a framework for thinking about how polarized political and cultural environments interact with our natural tribal psychology to create “pathological tribalism”. I show how under pathological tribalism our ability to think critically and independently is compromised—this environment is hostile to critical thinking.

Notes and references on the topics discussed in these videos can be found here:

Cognitive Biases, Tribalism and Politics

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Topics Covered in These Videos:

1. Cognitive Biases, Tribalism and Politics (Part 1 of 3): We Can Value More Than One Kind of Thing

– the “two movies” phenomenon (Scott Adams)
the distinction between “psychological” value pluralism and “philosophical” value pluralism
– what is affect bias?
– what is cultural cognition?
– your “value channel profile”

2. Cognitive Biases, Tribalism and Politics (Part 2 of 3): Attention, Focus and Exaggeration

– what is the focusing illusion?
– what is availability bias?
– what is the mere-exposure effect?
– how do these cognitive biases interact to create an exaggerated and distorted perception of reality?

3. Cognitive Biases, Tribalism and Politics (Part 3 of 3): How Polarization Makes Us Mean and Stupid

– a three-channel model of political values
– value channel profiles for the libertarian, the progressive liberal, and the conservative
– can I be a libertarian AND a progressive liberal AND a conservative?
– sources of “pathological tribalism”
– analogy: Black Mirror, “Men Against Fire”
– trading off critical thinking values and political values

These videos were created by Kevin deLaplante. You can learn more about who I am and what I do at

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Identifying the Emotional and Cognitive errors you need to know for the CFA Level 3 (CFA L3) Exam. Full coverage of Study Session 3, Reading 6 – Individual Behavioral Biases.

Emotional Biases: Loss Aversion, Overconfidence, Self-control bias Endowment Bias, Regret Aversion, Status Quo Bias

Cognitive biases are divided into informational processing errors and belief perseverance errors.

They include:
Conservatism bias, confirmation bias, illusion of control, representativeness bias, hindsight bias, framing bias, anchoring and adjustment, mental accounting, availability bias
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  1. I strongly agree with you that we must understand the cognitive processes and biases underlying polarization if we want to keep our democracy. Your treatment of affect bias, cultural cognition, availability bias, and the mere exposure effect were useful. Like you, I have found Kahneman’s work especially useful. His book, Thinking: Fast and Slow was superb. Your discussion of the focusing illusion led me to some of Kahneman’s recent videos. I have discussed other biases, including representativeness, escalating commitment, and backfire effects in a video called “Cognitive Bias in the Trump Election.” Here is a link to video.

  2. Such a great analysis. I want to write more about this in relation to a community I previously felt a part of, but now thread more carefully. I was confused by the "US vs. Them" mentality and felt that because of my identity and the fact that I felt validated by them, that I had to think similarly to them.

    But I want to distinguish my individuality and understandings. I do not want to demonize others. I want to understand them. This video helped me better understand the thoughts I was having and why this happens.

    Definitely plan to watch this a few times to develop my thoughts better.

    Excellent video!

  3. Love your work but FYI, feminists told me "equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity, is their aim", so I question your description of "Value channel 2" as liberal progressive values aligned along the liberation-oppression axis. These Feminists are identified as communists, not liberal progressives.

  4. Hello Kevin, thanks for producing these interesting argument. You mention in the third video about not having enough information about a given subject because of various cognitive biases. That causes me to wonder if having sufficient information about any issue is possible. Taking any one of the many political issues you mention, how difficult would it be, for an average individual, to acquire enough accurate information about the subject to consider themselves an independent thinker. I suggest it would be impossible. Therefore, it really becomes a matter of trust and to which expert, spokesperson, or news source one can rely on. Perhaps the critical thinking skill you advocate can be best applied on how to sort out the trustworthy. Thanks again.

  5. wow – you should be a professor. best video on behavioral finance I've seen so far. most of the others simply read off the slides – but you provide additional color on the concepts with examples, etc. Much appreciated and looking forward to the other videos.

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