Down deep, people are basically good. That’s a debatable proposition, but a widely held one, and it could be key to reducing the hostility toward perceived outsiders that is threatening the social fabric of the United States.
Two Harvard University psychologists make that intriguing argument in a newly published study. They write that, while the familiar my-group-good, your-group-bad mindset may be firmly implanted in the human psyche, there’s an even deeper belief that is far more benign—and can potentially be harnessed to reduce hate and hostility.
“Although we tend to view in-group members as mostly good and out-group members as mostly bad, neither is viewed as rotten to the core,” Julian De Freitas and Mina Cikara write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. “Directing people to consider this common, essential good may lead to more nuanced representations of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ fostering more equitable treatment across the group divide.”
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