Brown's distinguished political science faculty includes experts on today's most important global and domestic issues, from democratic erosion and income inequality to nuclear security and climate change. They write essays in leading newspapers and magazines and are regularly quoted in the media.
In one of Wittgenstein's examples in Philosophical Investigations, a so-called "aberrant pupil," instructed to add by twos, does so for a long while and then begins to add by fours. The question posed is whether the pupil has mastered the rule (such that he can confidently innovate on it) or whether he failed to understand it (suggesting he errs when he adds by fours but has been instructed to add by twos)....
Today on Scope Conditions: what drives discrimination against immigrants – and what can be done about it?
When social scientists have sought to explain anti-immigrant bias, they’ve tended to focus on one of two possible causes: the perceived economic threat that migrants might pose to the native born or the cultural threat driven by differences in race, ethnicity, or religion.
In a new book with Mathias Poertner and Nicholas Sambanis, our guest Donghyun Danny Choi, an assistant professor of political science at Brown, uses an innovative set of field experiments to test an alternative possibility: that the native-born perceive migrants as a threat to longstanding civic norms.
Could anti-immigrant bias be shaped by fears – often unjustified – that newcomers don’t share the same ideas about the meaning and practice of citizenship? Can misperceptions about norm-divergence be corrected? And are there interventions that can actually lead native-born citizens to adopt more cooperative behaviors across ethnic and cultural divides?
In their book Native Bias, Danny and his coauthors try to get at these questions using a wonderfully creative set of experiments, carried out across Germany shortly after the arrival of over a million Syrian refugees. You’ll have to listen to find out how the experiments worked – but for now we’ll just say that they involved dropping thousands of lemons on train platforms.
We talk with Danny about how the team came up with their experimental designs, how they carried them out, and what they found. One of their most interesting findings is that native German women tend to be more accepting of Muslim female migrants who signal that they hold progressive gender norms. But we also push Danny on the implications of the book’s findings. The treatments in the experiments involve immigrants demonstrably signaling their adherence to dominant German values. Even if this signaling works to dampen discrimination, we wondered how exactly this kind of intervention can be scaled up to the societal level. We also talk with Danny about who the book is saying bears the onus of reducing discrimination: is it up to immigrants to “fit in” better or up to natives to examine their own prejudices?
India's democratic backsliding began with the rise to power of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 elections. Five years later, the party won an even bigger parliamentary majority. The BJP now runs not only the central government, but also all but ten of the 28 states, whether on its own or allied with other parties. Though India has not regressed democratically by the criteria of electoral contestation and participation, it has failed to ensure that the rights of Muslims and other minorities are respected. It has also impaired freedom of expression and freedom of association. Electoral democracy is thus coming into conflict with the broader notion of democracy, electoral as well as nonelectoral, that India's 1950 Constitution enshrines.
Two studies (one preregistered) of Americans (N = 2200) drawn from a nationally representative panel show that both Democrats and Republicans personally value core democratic characteristics, such as free and fair elections, but severely underestimate opposing party members’ support for those same characteristics. Democrats estimate that the average Democrat values democratic characteristics 56% (in Study 1) and 77% (in Study 2) more than the average Republican. In a mirror image, Republicans estimate that the average Republican values democratic characteristics 82% (in Study 1) and 88% (in Study 2) more than the average Democrat. In turn, the tendency to believe that political ingroup members value democratic characteristics more than political outgroup members is associated with support for anti-democratic practices, especially among Republicans. Results suggest biased and inaccurate intergroup perceptions may contribute to democratic erosion in the United States.