Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
Two gay men with their child
Gay family

Mindset of polarization

When some people are faced with diversity, there is a high degree of judging or evaluating or comparing our differences. Part of the time the judgement made is a preference for ones own type of difference. This is an ethnocentric mindset of polarization and comes from the developmental model of sensitivity by Milton Bennett and adapted in the intercultural development continuum by Mitchell R. Hammer. This is a judgmental orientation that views diversity with a measure of “us” versus “them”.

One type of polarization takes an uncritical view of your own type of diversity and perhaps an overly critical perspective of the diverse other. Diversity feels uncomfortable since differences are judged. An example of polarization is if I am working with a diverse age group of adults, I may strongly prefer the Baby Boomers since this is my own age group. I see Baby Boomers as always reliable and hard working. I perceive my own age group as the ones who get it done. I may make meaning of Millennials as those who are less reliable and need constant supervision with supportive praise. In this flavor of polarization a person may say, “I wish these people would talk like we do” or “Boy, we could teach these people a lot of stuff they need to know”.

There can also be a preference for the diverse other where I am overly critical of my own diversity, values, and practices and uncritical of diversity. In my age example, when I make meaning from a reversed polarized mindset, I may find myself not wanting to work with the Baby Boomers but really like working with the Millennials. I may make meaning of Baby Boomers as not good with technology. I might think all Millennials are experts with technology. Someone perceiving and making meaning from this type of polarization might say, “I am embarrassed by my own ethnic group, and wish I could be like those people”.

The developmental task of the stage of polarization is to mitigate judgment making, emphasize our common humanity, and focus on universal values.

Your assignment on this step is to reflect on a diversity group other than your own and identify what you tell yourself about that group that is judgmental in a positive way. How can you modify your meaning-making of this diverse group to have more of a balanced perspective? Now please click on the comment button and share your reflection and example. Next comment on the comments of three other learners. Again, please be sure to be accepting, respectful, and supportive of your fellow learners, especially when we disagree.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Diversity and Inclusion

Purdue University

Contact FutureLearn for Support