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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Oct 6, 2022

How did we become so deeply divided? In 2019, hate crimes reached a ten-year high in the United States. In 2020, 40% of each political party deemed supporters of the opposing party “downright evil.” In addition to division across political lines, rampant discord is likewise rooted in other hot-button issues like race, religion, gender, and class. Despite one in five Americans suffering from chronic loneliness, it seems that we are collectively determined to distance ourselves from those who aren’t like us.

But what if there were a set of scientifically grounded techniques that could help us overcome our differences, create empathy, and forge lasting connections? That’s where Stanford University professor Geoffrey Cohen comes in. In his book Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides, Cohen examines the issues that poison our communal existence and undermine our sense of belonging, and offers solutions to help us establish connections using even the smallest of gestures. Even skeptics can appreciate these research-based practices, which have been shown to lessen political polarization, improve motivation and performance in school and work, combat racism, and enhance health and well-being.

Cohen’s work may be helpful for parents, educators, managers, or anyone else who wants to foster harmonious interpersonal relationships and healthier environments. Belonging reminds us that our personal need to belong is mirrored in other people.

Geoffrey L. Cohen is professor of psychology and the James G. March Professor of Organizational Studies in Education and Business at Stanford University. Prof. Cohen’s research examines processes that shape people’s sense of belonging and self and implications for social problems. He studies the big and small threats to belonging and self-integrity that people encounter in school, work, and health care settings, and strategies to create more inclusive spaces for people from all walks of life. He has long been inspired by Kurt Lewin’s quip, “The best way to try to understand something is to try to change it.” He lives in Palo Alto, California.

Ruchika Tulshyan is the founder of Candour, a global inclusion strategy firm. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times and Harvard Business Review. As a keynote speaker, Ruchika has addressed audiences at organizations like NASA, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and U.S. Congress. Ruchika is on the Thinkers50 Radar list and Hive Learning’s Most Influential D&I Professionals. She is a former business journalist who is now regularly quoted as a media expert in outlets like NPR, The New York Times, and Bloomberg. Ruchika is the author of The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace and Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work.