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October 5, 2021+Team HxA
+Open Inquiry

Congratulations to the Recipients of HxA’s Increasing Open Inquiry on College Campuses Grant

HxA is proud to announce the funding recipients for our first research grant, the Increasing Open Inquiry on College Campuses Grant! 

This highly selective grant program is funding five intervention studies over the current academic year. All five studies seek to improve campus climate by increasing college students’ empathy and perspective-taking, intellectual humility, curiosity, or open-minded cognition, or decreasing their self-censorship. Grant applications were reviewed by a panel of experts, and each selected study received $30,000 to carry out their research.  

The resulting interventions will become part of a publicly available toolkit. This grant is one of the many ways we are proactively driving positive changes to campus climate.

Congratulations to our grant recipients! Learn about their research studies below.


Harnessing the Power of Narrative to Improve Perspective Taking and Empathy

Principal Investigators: Kristi Costabile, Associate Professor in Psychology and Director of the Social Cognition and Perception Laboratory, Iowa State University

Costabile’s program of social cognition research suggests that narrative cognition reduces egocentric tendencies and encourages empathy for others. Her team’s research project will test the efficacy of an online intervention in which perspective-taking and empathy skills are enhanced through daily storytelling of everyday experiences. They propose that regular practice of telling stories will lead to a narrative cognition mindset that, in turn, will result in less biased social judgments.


Promoting Viewpoint Diversity and Perspective-Taking Through Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping

Principal Investigator: Cynthia Frantz, Professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies, Oberlin College

When thinking about complex and controversial topics such as systemic racism, socialist policies, or climate change, we all have assumptions — some explicit, some implicit — about what factors are important and how they relate to each other. Disagreements between people on different sides of an issue often stem from differences in these “mental models.” In this experimental project, Frantz’s team will employ the fuzzy cognitive mapping software “Mental Modeler” (developed by co-PI Gray ) as a tool to students (1) articulate implicit and explicit assumptions about their understanding of controversial societal issues, and (2) understand the viewpoints of those who disagree with them.


Curiosity Kills Closed Minds: Cultivating Curiosity to Increase Empathy in College Students

Principal Investigator: Sara Konrath, Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies, Indiana University

College campuses are microcosms of our increasingly pluralistic society, and students often encounter others who differ from them. Konrath’s team believes that curiosity can help students empathically approach difference, rather than avoid it. Across two experiments, they will attempt to increase students’ curiosity in the hopes of motivating them to empathize with peers who hold different beliefs. Overall, this project aims to develop tools that college instructors can use in their classrooms, especially when discussing complex social topics.


Self-Censorship of Political Opinion on College Campuses: Testing an Intervention to Change Campus Norms

Principal Investigator: Laurie O'Brien, Associate Professor of Psychology, Tulane University

Group norm theory (e.g., Crandall et al., 2002) is a useful framework to understand self-censorship and political opinion expression on college campuses. O’Brien’s team proposes that fear of violating social norms can lead to self-censorship, and they will test an educational intervention to alter perceptions of campus norms. They hypothesize that educating students about existing political diversity on campus will change perceptions of local campus norms, decrease self-censorship, and increase political opinion expression.

Van Bavel

Can Changing One's Online Social Network Increase Open-Minded Cognition? 

Principal Investigator: Jay van Bavel, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University 

In a two-part project, van Bavel and team will start by connecting Twitter to self-report data to examine how certain social media behaviors correlate with various psychological traits. They aim to determine the types of Twitter accounts that tend to be followed by those who are high in open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and affective polarization. They will then instruct a large sample of participants to follow a number of “constructive” accounts associated with open-minded cognition and unfollow “polarizing” accounts associated with affective polarization. This data-driven intervention will contribute to an understanding of how online social networks can contribute to open-minded cognition and political polarization.

The Increasing Open Inquiry on College Campuses Grant was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed by funded programs, projects, or events are those of the organizers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation and/or of Heterodox Academy.

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