Political Values Polarization and Unification: A Functional Contextual Viewpoint


Hampden-Turner (1981) in Maps of the Mind claimed that Martin Luther King considered segregation as "not merely dividing person from person but the splitting of value from value with personality.” Instead Hampden-Turner urged creative healing syntheses by bridging seemingly polar values (e.g., not "black versus white" but "black and white"). Functional contextualism in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) views behaviors and thoughts as "ongoing acts in context" (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001) in which the context establishes the nature and function of the acts. A relational frame is a context that functions to initiate and maintain a response in relation to an equivalence class (which is typically a verbal rule). In this paper I reformulate Hampden-Turner (1981) using functional contextualism and relational frames theory. A mind is not mere mentalism or brain structures, but instead is a network of functional contexts (behaviors, thoughts, environments). The "maps of the political mind" is thus construed as malleable events in context that are equivalence operations where transformations can produce new derived relations, thereby bridging and reducing polarization of political attitudes that occur in isolated social media communities, and facilitating dialogue. ACT's application to collective functional units (groups, organizations) will be illustrated with an example for decreasing polarization and increasing adaptation and resilience. The steps comprise: (1) Identifying complementary positive values underlying the conflict through open dialog; (2) Using "both / and" rather than "either / or" (synergistic reasoning) to unify these value splits; (3) Elaborating this union of values by further dialog.

Author Information
Raymond Hawkins, Fielding Graduate University and University of Texas at Austin, United States
Catherine Hawkins, Texas State University in San Marcos, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ECP2019
Stream: Mental Health

This paper is part of the ECP2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon