A Riddle for You

Imagine you are driving your favorite sports car… A two-seater… To the top of a high mountain.
You find three people stranded there:

  • A doctor
  • The man or woman of your dreams
  • A wounded person

There is no cell phone service. All three need a ride down to the bottom of the mountain, but
you only have one empty seat in your car. What do you do?

There are no wrong answers.

Let´s look at some possible ways to solve this riddle:

You offer your empty seat to the wounded person. Great choice! They need medical
treatment right away and you can send someone to go up and pick up the other two.

You offer your empty seat to the person of your dreams. This also makes sense. The two of
you have made exciting plans to start a new life together but can call for help once you are in
cell phone range. Meanwhile the doctor can provide medical treatment for the wounded

You offer your empty seat to the doctor. After doing stabilizing first aid on the wounded
person, the doctor goes ahead to prepare for advanced care at the small hospital ahead.

You offer your car to the doctor and wounded person and have them send someone back for
you and the person of your dreams.

All of these are reasonable, good choices. And yet…. Might there be a better solution?

What if the doctor is unable to treat the wounded man because he or she is a veterinarian, or
an ophthalmologist, or a PhD? What if the wounded person has lost so much blood that they
are near to death and unlikely to make it down to the bottom of the mountain? What if they
are wounded but the injury is minor? What if a storm is coming and one or more of you has
survival skills? What if the person of your dreams is married?

The point is, when you first answered this riddle, you had very limited knowledge. However, the
you that is at the top of the mountain has access to three other people who can help you
understand the situation more fully.

Why not try a different way of deciding? Why not discuss the situation with them to explore the
options and together come up with a solution you can all live with? It won’t be a perfect
solution. Someone’s going to have to wait to be rescued. Some of you may miss an important
event or a plane. The wounded person may not make it. However, after discussing it together,
you will have done your best to address each person’s fears and concerns and each person’s

Politics are like the riddle. Unless we take the time and put in the effort to explore the issues
from as many perspectives as possible, we will be basing our votes on limited information.  Our
votes might seem to be reasonable. They will make sense based on whatever logic we used to
arrive at them. But they may not be what’s best for everyone impacted by the results. They
may not be what’s best for the country.

Here at CPL, our mission is to get you curious about what else is out there that you don’t yet
know. Our goal is to inspire you to look at the issues from as many different perspectives as you
can. And in the long run, we hope to get politicians to do the same.

I would like to extend my thanks to late David Newton for coming up with this riddle!

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    The Two Types of Depolarization

    Depolarization — the work of reducing toxic polarization — is best understood in terms of the two types of polarization that shape our interactions and perceptions in today’s politically charged climate:

    1. Affective Polarization

    Affective polarization revolves around emotions and feelings. It refers to the emotional divide between individuals or groups with differing political views. It’s about how people feel about others who hold opposing ideologies.

    • Us vs. Them: In affective polarization, people tend to see those on the other side of the political spectrum as part of an “us vs. them” mentality. Emotions like anger, fear, and distrust often come into play.
    • Emotional Reactions: When encountering someone with opposing views, affectively polarized individuals may experience heightened emotions. They might feel threatened, defensive, or even hostile.
    • Echo Chambers: Social media and personalized news feeds can exacerbate affective polarization by reinforcing existing beliefs and isolating individuals from diverse perspectives.

    2. Cognitive Polarization

    Cognitive polarization focuses on thought processes and cognitive biases. It pertains to how people think about the views of others.

    • Discounting Opposing Views: Cognitive polarization leads to a tendency to discount opposing viewpoints without critically evaluating them. People may jump to conclusions, assuming that differing opinions lack validity or logical soundness.
    • Us vs. Them (Again): Just as in affective polarization, cognitive polarization reinforces the “us vs. them” mindset. It hinders open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity.
    • Intellectual Echo Chambers: Cognitive polarization occurs when people surround themselves with like-minded sources, reinforcing their preconceptions and avoiding exposure to alternative perspectives.

    The Interplay Between Affective and Cognitive Polarization

    Affective and cognitive polarization often feed into each other. Emotional reactions (affective) influence how we process information (cognitive), and vice versa.

    Breaking the Cycle: CPL recognizes that depolarization  requires us to address both affective and cognitive aspects. Encouraging empathy and  active listening is not enough.  We must also teach critical thinking and intellectual humility if we are to truly bridge the gap.

    About Bridging

    Bridging refers to the intentional effort to reduce toxic polarization by fostering understanding, empathy, and communication between individuals or groups with differing political views. It aims to build connections and discover our shared humanity, ultimately bridging the gaps that divides people along ideological lines.