New Blog, Same Semi-Witty Pontifications
In what surely qualifies as big news around here, I’m excited to announce that I have a new blog over at Psychology Today. The blog — which is tentatively titled ‘The Inertia Trap” — will focus on the psychology of change, or to be more precise, the psychology of why change is difficult. More specifically, the goal is for the blog to discuss how psychology mechanisms can prevent macro-level social, cultural, and political change from occurring. One way to think of it is like a
self-help here’s-why-we’re-screwed blog, but for institutions, communities, and social orders instead of for individuals. And have no fear — posts should continue here at about the same pace. The only difference is that when I write something about change it will probably pop up over at the Psych Today blog.
The blog is here, and you can subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking here. The inaugural post looks at how new research on intergroup biases paints a bleak picture for the prospect of political compromise:
If you’re the type of person who spends the weekend scanning cable news channels or curling up with an esoteric political science journal you can probably name 27 different reasons politicians on opposing sides of the political spectrum find little common ground. Though most political chatter tends to focus on salient motivations like ideological commitments, reelection incentives, or plain ol’ believing the other party is hell-bent on destroying the country, there are also psychological aspects of intergroup dynamics that can make it hard for political parties to cooperate.
To briefly summarize all of human history, groups are good. They provide protection and increase favorable opportunities. As a result, we generally seek to buttress our own groups while treating other groups with wariness. One way this manifests itself is in the “intergroup sensitivity effect” (ISE) – the tendency to be more dismissive of criticism when it comes from out-group members.
So right from the start, political systems involving multiple parties have a steep hill to climb. Compromise requires persuading another party that some piece of what they want is stupid (or at least less brilliant than the other things they want) and the ISE makes it harder for them to be open to that criticism. When a Liberal explains to a Conservative why their energy plan is bad, there’s not a great desire to take the explanation at face value.
If that were the extent of the trouble caused by the ISE, things might not be so bad. After all, even if being in the out-group essentially handicaps your argument, you can still make up for it by building a really strong argument.
Unfortunately, the above scenario may paint too rosy of picture.
Yeah, I’m going to make you click through. Consider it my nudge to get you to bookmark it, subscribe to it, Tweet it, and email it.