From the Washington Post article: “Disagree about Iraq? You’re not Just Wrong–You’re Evil”.
A wide body of psychological research shows that on any number of hot-button issues, people seem hard-wired to believe the worst about those who disagree with them….
“We are really bad about putting ourselves in other people’s places and looking at the world the way they look at it,” said Glenn D. Reeder, a social psychologist at Illinois State University who recently conducted a study into how supporters and critics of the Iraq war have come to believe entirely different narratives about the war — and about each other. “We find it difficult to grant that other people come to their conclusions in good faith if they reach a conclusion that is different than ours,” he said.
When Reeder and his colleagues asked pro-war and antiwar Americans how they would describe the other side’s motives, the researchers found that the groups suffered from an identical bias: People described others who agreed with them as motivated by ethics and principle, but felt that the people who disagreed with them were motivated by narrow self-interest.
This polarization pains me, and I am not looking forward to the next election cycle for that reason.
I find it fascinating that the reporter chose the word “hard-wired” to express the origin of this tendency to believe the worst about those who disagree with us. That’s interesting in and of itself. It certainly seems to happen, and not just on the national political level, but also in interpersonal and group conflict.
The article came to me via RAD Thoughts, and I appreciated that blogger’s determination to warn himself:
So I have a new approach to try to trick my “they-have-bad-intent” mental module. Whenever I use the word “they” in any debate I will think of my Caution Steep Slope sign. Careful. Careful now.