The Big Sort - America's Partisan Reading List
rating: 0+x


October 29, 2008: By studying the reading habits of American customers at, it could be shown that the reading lists of people from different ends of the political spectrum were relatively isolated from each other, and that most people seem to prefer reading books which confirm their own beliefs.

Of course, the way Amazon sells books - by examining what you have already purchased and recommending more (or indeed several different editions) of the same - would tend to re-inforce this, and given the decline of the traditional bookstore it is not unreasonable for someone to buy all or most of their books from Amazon. But the point is well made.



Game and Story Use

  • The point that people will prefer to seek out information which confirm their own views is an important one, and it can be used to great effect by GMs who wish to inject moral ambiguity into their games. Come up with two opposing factions, as well as a number of arguments for each side why their side is right or morally superior. Arguments for either side should, from a rational point of view, be convincing or at least reasonable. Then come up with a series of counter-arguments for these claims ranging from the rational to the ludicrous which are used to attack the other side. Then throw in the PCs, and let them figure out which side is in the "right".
    • The PCs might then fall into a similar trap, dismissing any valid arguments presented by the first side, and ignoring any hints that their own side is not quite as pure as it claims.
      • In such a case, keep dropping stronger hints until you get them to think about what they are doing.
      • Alternatively, remaining partisan for one side or the other could be an entirely valid piece of characterisation. In reality very few people undergo Damascene conversions in their worldview and a player could be behaving entirely rationally in not having his character do so.
    • The dialectic shift can be a very useful plot device though - possibly not as violent as that in The Matix but plots in which the protagonist makes a violent change of faction are not uncommon: Deus Ex is an excellent cRPG example and Minority Report is the first movie title that springs to mind.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License