What Should We Do With the Haters?

 

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HATRED: A mental state of revulsion from something that offends us — a dislike or feeling of ill will, intensified by the desire to harm or injure or make a speedy end of the object hated. This applies in chief to hatred of persons by persons, at the root of which lies the desire to destroy The intensity and duration of hatred in general bear no definite or fixed proportion to the amount of injury received … Hatred is not designative of a mere passing mood (like some forms of anger) but of a settled attitude or disposition, which cherishes ill-will and can bide its time and plan means for the injury or discomfiture of its object.  (W. L. Davidson, 1914, Hastings Encylopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 1914)

 

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A large body of research suggests that liberals and conservatives differ on important psychological characteristics. For example, conservatives demonstrate stronger attitudinal reactions to situations of threat and conflict. In contrast, liberals tend to be seek out novelty and uncertainty. (Darren Schreiber et al., “Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans”)

 

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Existing research depicts intergroup prejudices as deeply ingrained, requiring intense intervention to lastingly reduce. Here, we show that a single approximately 10-minute conversation encouraging actively taking the perspective of others can markedly reduce prejudice for at least 3 months. We illustrate this potential with a door-to-door canvassing intervention in South Florida targeting antitransgender prejudice. Despite declines in homophobia, transphobia remains pervasive. For the intervention, 56 canvassers went door to door encouraging active perspective-taking with 501 voters at voters’ doorsteps. A randomized trial found that these conversations substantially reduced transphobia, with decreases greater than Americans’ average decrease in homophobia from 1998 to 2012. These effects persisted for 3 months, and both transgender and nontransgender canvassers were effective. The intervention also increased support for a nondiscrimination law, even after exposing voters to counterarguments. (D. Broockman & J. Kalla, 2016, “Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing”)

 

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