Presented by the UCLA Library and the Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences

Speaker: Christopher Bail, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Political Science and Public Policy, Duke University and Founder of the Polarization Lab

Political discourse is the soul of democracy, but misunderstanding and conflict can fester in divisive conversations. The widespread shift to online discourse exacerbates many of these problems and corrodes the capacity of diverse societies to cooperate in solving social problems. Scholars and civil society groups promote interventions that make conversations less divisive or more productive, but scaling these efforts to online discourse is challenging.

In this talk, Chris Bail will discuss conducting a large-scale experiment that demonstrates how online conversations about divisive topics can be improved with AI tools. Specifically, a large language model is employed to make real-time, evidence-based recommendations intended to improve participants’ perception of feeling understood. These interventions improve reported conversation quality, promote democratic reciprocity and improve the tone, without systematically changing the content of the conversation or moving people’s policy attitudes

Chris Bail is Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Public Policy at Duke University, where he founded the Polarization Lab. He studies how artificial intelligence shapes human behavior in a range of different settings—and social media platforms in particular.

A Guggenheim Fellow and Carnegie Fellow, Bail's writing appears in leading outlets such as Science, Nature, and the New York Times. His widely acclaimed 2021 book, Breaking the Social Media Prism, was featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and described as “masterful,” by Science Magazine. It also inspired Twitter to implement a major change to its policies designed to counter misinformation and polarization. His 2015 book, Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream, received three awards and resulted in an invitation to address the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Bail has also written for the Sunday Op-Ed page of the New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post Blog and appeared on NBC Nightly News, CBS, CNN, BBC, and NPR to discuss his research. His work has been covered by more than sixty media outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The Atlantic, Scientific American, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Vox, Daily Kos, National Public Radio, NBC News, C-Span, and the BBC.

Chris Bail received his PhD from Harvard University in 2011.

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