While listening to the April 21st episode of Brené 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.