Inclusivity Norms to Counter Polarization in European Societies (INCLUSIVITY). Volkswagen Stiftung, the "Challenges for Europe" Call 2020. October 2021 - September 2025.

PIs: Prof. Maarten van Zalk (Osnabrück University, lead PI), Dr. Eva Jaspers (Utrecht University), Prof. Oliver Christ (FernUniversität in Hagen), Dr. Marcin Bukowski (Jagiellonian University, Kraków), Dr. Miranda Lubbers (Autonomous University of Barcelona).

The project team focuses their research on inclusivity norms, which are social group norms that promote equality-based respect, dialogue, and unity, to prevent the harmful consequences of polarization for the social tissue of European communities. The goal of the project is to advance research on current European challenges in three ways. First, to provide an evidence-based approach to countering polarization in Europe. Second, the team uses experimental and network approaches to inclusivity norms to uncover the relational nature of norm transmission, as well as the conditions under which inclusivity norms amplify tolerance, contact, and cooperation. Third, the project will result in open empirical data on similarities and differences in inclusivity norms between 16 European countries and groups within European countries. The team will use an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods approach, which combines a European survey, laboratory experiments, social network analysis, qualitative interviews, and an evaluation of school-based interventions to study how inclusivity norms can change individuals' attitudes and behavior toward opposing groups. With the project, the team intends to provide knowledge on how to optimize the transmission and adoption of inclusivity norms in contemporary Europe. The project team plans to transfer valuable knowledge to both stakeholders and the general public by creating an international hub of research on inclusivity norms, facilitated by implementing workshops, conferences, a multilingual website specifically designed for practitioners and non-experts, and ongoing collaborations with these and other stakeholders.

The interdisciplinary area of social network analysis has set clear antecedents in studying the diffusion of information and innovations in social networks, which we draw on to model norm transmission. Recent work on network interventions has integrated network models by targeting both social referents and complex social reinforcement over time. The research has shown that this approach can effectively decrease interpersonal conflicts in adolescence. However, little is known about the potential role of the social network structure in transmitting inclusivity norms in polarized networks, i.e., networks that contain opposing groups. Various methods of data collection are part of this project, such as a survey, qualitative interviews, Agent-Based Modelling (ABM), (online) network experiments, an intervention study.


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