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Poles Apart: Why We Turn Against Each Other and How We Come Together

An expert on polarisation, a behavioural scientist and a professional communicator explain why we are so prone to be drawn into rival

Humans are social animals. We seek out like-minded individuals and form groups based on common interests and identity. But in clustering with ‘people like us’ we tend to shun ‘people not like us’ and become hostile and polarised. Why does this happen? And can it be reversed? 

Intelligence Squared brought together an expert on polarisation, a behavioural scientist and a professional communicator to explain why we are so prone to be drawn into rival, often deeply antagonistic factions. Drawing from their new book Poles Apart, they explored whether ‘tribalism’ is in our genetic make-up and how other factors such as friends and family influence our behaviour. They also pinpoint the economic and political triggers that tip people from healthy disagreement to dangerous hostility, and the part played by social media in spreading entrenched opinions. 

Watch now and learn what practical and effective steps we can all take to narrow divisions, build respect for others, and create a greater degree of common understanding. 

Praise for Poles Apart

‘In Poles Apart, the authors give us a comprehensive review of the psychology of groupishness and polarisation. It’s a fascinating read, which will help anyone who wants to step out of the polarisation cycle and become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem that is now damaging the world’s leading democracies.’ – Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern School of Business, author of The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis

‘Poles Apart is an extraordinary achievement: fresh, deeply authoritative, and entertaining on every page. Everyone talks about polarisation, but no one does it like Goldsworthy, Osborne, and Chesterfield. You’ll finish this book wiser, kinder, and more hopeful than when you started it.’ – Jamie Susskind, author of Future Politics

‘A fascinating and thought-provoking analysis of the divisions between us, how we bridge them, how we reshape the world – and ourselves too. Essential reading‘ – Cathy Newman, Channel 4 News

‘This is a pivotal moment for this book to be written, read and understood. – Peter Gabriel, musician



Ali Goldsworthy

Former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats

Former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, she led the team that built the fastest growing campaigning organisation in the UK. In 2017 she was a Sloan Fellow at Stanford, creating its first depolarisation course and winning numerous awards for her work on political tribalism. She has written for the Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman and Financial Times.

Laura Osborne

Managing Director and spokesperson at London First

Professional communicator, with a background in public affairs and government communications. Currently Managing Director and a spokesperson at London First, the voice of London’s largest businesses, she was the UK Consumer Association’s first Head of Corporate Affairs, working with some of the UK’s biggest corporates to directly intervene to improve the banking, energy and telecoms markets for consumers.

Alex Chesterfield

Behavioural scientist

Behavioural scientist with a masters in Cognitive & Decision Science. She currently works in financial services, leading a team of psychologists to encourage consumers to make better decisions and drive ethical business cultures. For four years, she was an elected Councillor in Guildford for the Conservative Party and has personally experienced the effects of affective polarisation, both in and out of the workplace.

Linda Yueh

Economist, broadcaster, and writer

Economist, broadcaster, and writer. She is Fellow in Economics, St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford; Adjunct Professor of Economics, London Business School; and Visiting Professor, IDEAS, London School of Economics. She is the author of The Great Crashes and The Great Economists, a Times Best Business Book of 2018.  


Speakers subject to change.