When they perceive that adoption of a policy will impugn the status of their group, they resist information about the utility of that policy as a form of psychological self-defense. It follows that one way to make individuals more receptive to such policies is to ease any sense of identity threat that they might experience. (links/citations in the original 2007 study by Dan M. Kahan: The Cognitively Illiberal State)
There’s a lesson to be learned. Whether we actually engage in the process of learning by doing is a different matter….
As noted in my two most recent posts describing some of the psychological mechanisms and short-cuts we all make use of in arriving at conclusions or at least opinions on matters for which we cannot devote the needed time and effort to arrive at on our own, doing so in most instances is perfectly reasonable, logical, and understandable. That we extend our incorporation of decisions and assessments offered by preferred leaders or experts or spokespeople to defending our various teams or groups is not that difficult to understand.
If we have—consciously or not—associated ourselves with political groups or cultural organizations or religious entities or a host of other collaborations, we do so because there are benefits derived from making those connections. I’ve been a Boston Bruins hockey fan and Boston Red Sox baseball fan for decades. You will never find me at any function honoring the Montreal Canadiens or New York Yankees. Nor will you find me shilling for the Tea Party or Climate Deniers Unite!
There’s no right or wrong in anyone and everyone doing these things. It’s how we function and communicate and share with others. Basic human nature is all it is. We bond with others for all kinds of reasons. Because those associations help us appreciate and value our own identities, any attacks—perceived or genuine—will be resisted.
But as with other similar psychological short-cuts, we may be doing ourselves an occasional or perhaps long-term disservice by relying on our automatic acceptance or rejection of viewpoints or evidence based on the kinship we feel towards the one offering a contradictory observation or set of data.
While few of us (I hope) are inclined to engage in verbal combat with every person who is not in agreement with us wholeheartedly and always on every topic under the sun, when an issue of significant-enough potential impact such as economic policy or environmental concerns, blanket rejection of differences brought to light denies us important opportunities to learn. Making a determination that the information presented is done so in bad faith shuts the door on considering the possibility that the information presented—despite the conflicting interpretations—might make a positive difference in our lives. It doesn’t have to be an effect resulting today or tomorrow, either.
Just allowing ourselves on occasion to actually engage in adult, respectful, substantive conversations with others offering contrary viewpoints or values or beliefs is a first step to bridge the ever-widening gap between the Left and the Right. (Easier said than done, of course!)
Some clearly prefer to keep the buttons pushed for their own self-serving reasons. Keeping others enraged and distracted rather than appreciating the genuine merits of different opinions has its benefits. Of course, benefiting the public or acting in the common good aren’t among those benefits….
Is it always more important to be loyal to the team above all else? Or do we owe it to ourselves and our children to listen now and then to what “others” have to say and share? It might be a pleasant surprise to realize that those evil and mean-spirited others want what you want: a bit of peace, prosperity, and a promise of hopes for better days to come.
There’s a wide middle to find the paths to get us all there. A choice.
~ My Photo:
Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
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Life Will Answer – Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name]
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The Middle Age Follies – A column offering a slightly skewed look at life for those of us on the north side of 50
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
This blog is offered to encourage more enlightened public discourse—by sharing observations about the ideologies which motivate our political, economic, and cultural debates. The simple hope: shedding light on current “strategies” will prompt more of us to realize a different approach is at least worth considering … assuming a better future is worth pursuing. (It is!)
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein