Nov 27, 2017

People are less dismissive of ideas they hear than those they read, study finds

A Bernie Sanders supporter yells to delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Photo: Matt Slocum / AP

People expressing polarizing ideas by speaking receive less scrutiny and are deemed more reasonable than those doing so in writing, according to a new study.

Why it matters: Juliana Schroeder, the lead researcher on the study, told the Washington Post her findings reveal, and could help diminish, one reason for increased political division. Technology's effect of making human interactions more text-based, Schroeder says, can be "dehumanizing, and may increase polarization."

"When two people hold different beliefs, there is a tendency not only to recognize a difference of opinion but also to denigrate the mind of one's opposition," the study's authors wrote, per the Post. "Because another person's mind cannot be experienced directly, its quality must be inferred from indirect cues."

How they did it: Three experiments were conducted to expose volunteers to topics they would have strong feelings about, such as war, abortion and music, the Post reported. The participants were then asked to judge the people explaining their argument. Researchers found people were less likely to find someone mentally incapable someone whose argument they listened to compared to one they read.

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