Why does that other group hate us so much?

While listening to the April 21st episode of BrenĂ© Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us with Dr. Vivek Murthy, I was introduced to the term motivation attribution asymmetry. This occurs when there is a big disagreement between two, adversarial groups. Let’s say you are in one group (your ingroup), and your opponents are in another (your outgroup).

Adversaries attribute their ingroup’s actions to ingroup love more than outgroup hate and attribute their outgroup’s actions to outgroup hate more than ingroup love.

Motive attribution asymmetry for love vs hate drives intractable conflict by Waytz, Young, and Ginges

Too often in this world of communicating more and more through social media, I have been guilty of this motive attribution asymmetry. When we deprive ourselves of the meaningful face-to-face dialogue, and trade that in for the back and forth commenting, tweeting, or chatting, we are jeopardizing our relationships. Or more likely, we are not developing a relationship that we don’t intend on having.

In the same Unlocking Us podcast, the idea was shared that relationship is the foundation of dialogue. Building a relationship first, or understanding the true feelings and intentions of someone, can prevent the hateful lashings that we sometimes unleash, fueling the asymmetry even further.

Indeed, a study in the same paper by Waytz, Young, and Ginges above suggests that “offering [groups] financial incentives for accuracy in evaluating the opposing party can mitigate this bias and its consequences.”

Do we really need financial incentives to do such? I feel that it is our civic duty to accurately identify the motives of our opponents so that a compromise can be reached. Further, we need to hold our elected officials to this same standard.

Featured photo by cloudvisual.co.uk on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Why does that other group hate us so much?

  1. Great post! I absolutely agree, and I think this paradigm reveals a lot about the human tendency towards polarization. Especially in recent years, social media has become a melting pot of people pitting themselves against one another and embodying and “us vs them” attitude rather than an “us & them vs the problem” attitude. We can never develop meaningful relationships or achieve any kind of compromise without overcoming these behaviors. I certainly hope that financial incentives are not the only way out and that we can recognize how fundamentally unproductive our interactions have become!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice picture on this post! Another example of cognitive bias in how we think about social interactions. Wish we could increase awareness of this kind of thing–but I guess that’s what you’re doing by writing about it!


    1. Thanks! I’m getting less and less hesitant on writing about stuff that is already out there because of the “increasing awareness” factor. Thanks for reading!


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