Participatory democracy and the attitudes of the opposition
In an invited commentary published in The Straits Times in 2014, SMU Behavioural Sciences Institute Director Professor David Chan discussed why and how constructive public discourse and engagement requires a positivity mindset. He noted that it is natural that there will be differences and disagreements over a public policy or issue, and it is important to distinguish between negative emotions and a negativity mindset. A negativity mindset is formed through a series and accumulation of unpleasant negative experiences. This negativity mindset is contagious and can spread rapidly, leading to a negative spiral. Prof Chan said that to turn negativity into positivity, people need to feel that their voices are heard, and see that they can translate their voices into positive actions to contribute to society and make a real positive difference to the lives of others. Therefore, both speaking up and actions go together, and it is necessary for people to experience a democracy of deeds and voices, so that we can truly develop positivity by enabling positive attitudes and experiences.