Shi, Feng; Misha Teplitskiy; Eamon Duede and James A. Evans
As political polarization in the United States continues to rise(1-3), the question of whether polarized individuals can fruitfully cooperate becomes pressing. Although diverse perspectives typically lead to superior team performance on complex tasks(4,5), strong political perspectives have been associated with conflict, misinformation and a reluctance to engage with people and ideas beyond one's echo chamber(6-8). Here, we explore the effect of ideological composition on team performance by analysing millions of edits to Wikipedia's political, social issues and science articles. We measure editors' online ideological preferences by how much they contribute to conservative versus liberal articles. Editor surveys suggest that online contributions associate with offline political party affiliation and ideological self-identity. Our analysis reveals that polarized teams consisting of a balanced set of ideologically diverse editors produce articles of a higher quality than homogeneous teams. The effect is most clearly seen in Wikipedia's political articles, but also in social issues and even science articles. Analysis of article 'talk pages' reveals that ideologically polarized teams engage in longer, more constructive, competitive and substantively focused but linguistically diverse debates than teams of ideological moderates. More intense use of Wikipedia policies by ideologically diverse teams suggests institutional design principles to help unleash the power of polarization.