Breaking up the Bubble: Improving critical thinking skills and tolerance of ambiguity in deradicalization mentoring.


  • Irina Jugl Competence Centre Against Extremism in Baden-Wuerttemberg


Deradicalization, Critical Thinking, Tolerance of Ambiguity, Media Literacy, Cell Phone App, Method


In response to a complex world, radicalized individuals tend to retract into black-and-white thinking, preference for easy solutions for complicated problems, or belief in conspiracy theories. These individuals are often characterized by low cognitive complexity, lack in ability for perspective taking, as well as intolerance of ambiguity. Hence, it stands to reason that successful deradicalization processes might require addressing such patterns of thinking, ideally resulting in improved critical thinking skills. With this goal, a governmental deradicalization program in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany (Competence Centre Against Extremism, konex), is field testing innovative cell phone application-based methods since June 2021. The utilized tool is a news aggregation application that presents different perspectives on current (socio-) political topics based on editorial curation. Since deradicalization work is recommended to be tailored to individual needs, the application allows for context specific discussions and creative interventions (e.g., storytelling) based on the featured topics. This article presents the theoretical framework and underlying theories of change for the application’s implementation in day-to-day deradicalization work, especially focused on the improvement of critical thinking skills, tolerance of ambiguity, and perspective taking. Furthermore, the tool is being used to address existential uncertainties, conspiracy beliefs, as well as a lack of media literacy skills.


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