A classic study in social psychology revealed that we cannot always trust our perceptions. Nonetheless, there are some good ways to uncover the truth. And doing so might help us reduce political polarization.
I recently visited a local school in the Bristol area of the UK to talk about an upcoming wellbeing project. As I walked into the head teacher’s office I noticed a poster that detailed a strategy for increasing performance in young students. The centrepiece of that strategy was “Growth Mindset”. At first, I was delighted that brilliant work conducted by an academic in the US (Carol Dweck) had made it all the way across the pond and into this very applied setting. Then, I felt slightly worried.
By the turn of the millennium, before the banking crash of 2008 and the subsequent years of economic austerity imposed on citizens by many western governments, there was a view – even among politicians in left-leaning political parties – that class-based politics was no longer relevant. In the words of the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, “We are all middle class now.” These words were uttered in 1997, probably encouraged by a rising tide of prosperity that appeared to be benefitting most, if not all, members of society. Twenty-one years later, the world looks very different.
In the present climate of divisiveness and inter-group hostility, few attitude objects are as topical as other people. How we evaluate others, especially those from different groups (racial, political, class, etc.), can be consequential for a whole host of outcomes. At this year’s attitudes pre-conference, held a day before the official start of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual convention, attitudes toward other people was center stage.
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