Studies show that cultivating complexity leads to less polarizing mindsets, relationships, and communities. Oversimplification is a large driver of the culture wars, as complex, multi-dimensional issues that demand nuanced thinking are reduced to black and white binaries. This drives an "us vs them" worldview that results in divisive factions. Cultivating a more complex understanding of ourselves, our communities, and the world we live in is integral to countering polarization, extremism, and destructive conflict. For more on this subject check out the work of Peter Coleman or read my articles on contradictory complexity and ideological complexity.
Metacognition is thinking about thinking. It involves becoming aware of our thought processes and the mechanics driving our thinking. In a political context, metacognition leads to increased ideological awareness, or a more self-aware relationship to our ideologies, beliefs, and political convictions. Metacognition allows us to use ideologies as toolkits instead of blindly merging our identities with them -- which leads to fundamentalism, extremism, and other polarizing behaviors. Metacognition inserts "space" between ourselves and our thoughts, allowing us to be more fluid and flexible in our thinking, so we can continually adapt to this rapidly changing world we live in. This study illuminates how metacognitive failure leads to extremism and polarizing radicalisms.
Abstraction, as defined in this article on combating polarization, is about cultivating a mindset of continually asking "why" and digging to the root of our thinking. An abstract mindset allows us to see the bigger picture by taking multiple perspectives on any polarizing issue. We are able to "zoom out" and see the surrounding context or "backdrop" of any situation, issue or event, taking in nuances that we could have overlooked. Fixating on concrete, specific "surface" issues can lead to more division and either/or thinking. Abstraction opens the door to greater both/and thinking, as we think more critically about the underlying values, goals, interests, and patterns that underly any conflict. Thinking critically about abstraction also involves knowing when to pivot to more granular levels as well, so we can "zoom in" and "zoom out" of any issue when necessary.