Liking > Tolerating

Instead of merely training people to hate each other less, … it may be time to teach them to like each other more.”

Those People,” an article in the Boston Globe on Sunday by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, summarises studies in allophilia, Greek for ‘love of the other.’ Five components of allophillia are identified as kinship, comfort, affection, engagement, and enthusiasm.

Among findings and observations:

The idea that we should tolerate others “aims to improve society by eliminating negative attitudes, but has nothing to say about generating positive ones.” Simply losing bad feelings towards someone doesn’t mean we have good feelings towards them.

We may be ‘irredeemably tribal‘* — that is, “a large body of research — to say nothing of history — suggests that the human mind inevitably categorizes people into groups. Should we aim for color-blindness? Or should we, as [researcher] Pittinsky suggests, accept the futility of that goal and instead cultivate affection for others because of, not despite, these differences?

Negative and positive attitudes are not opposite ends of a spectrum, but at least partially independent; … all the tolerance training in the world would not instill affection for a group.” Studies from the 1950s seem to suggest that trust and distrust and attraction and repulsion are not just two ends of the same continuum, and “studies over the years (not to mention a wealth of collective dating experience) have confirmed that less repulsion does not necessarily translate into more attraction, and vice versa.”  Just because I distrust you less doesn’t mean I trust you more. Sounds counter-intuitive if you see “trust” as a continuum with “more trust” at one end and “less trust” at the other, but that may be the wrong image.

Feeling accepted by a group is more likely to increase allophilia toward that group than to reduce prejudice. Conversely, feeling sympathy for a group might make us hate them less, but does not necessarily make us like them more. These findings are consistent with the classic research about our attraction to people: feeling accepted by someone forms a bond that feeling sorry for someone does not.”

And the bottom line: “Allophilia tends to correlate negatively with prejudice. But, counterintuitively, some subjects exhibit high levels of both, bolstering the claim that the two dimensions are independent. … Allophilia for a group predicted positive behaviors better than lack of prejudice.”

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* speaking of tribalism: “They told me the blood in Kenya now had to be pure and clean, and they accused me of being of mixed tribal blood.” at CNN

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