The degree of polarization in American society has become impossible to ignore. People don’t just disagree with one another about politics, guns, taxes, and freedom of speech; they also disrespect those with whom they disagree.
Consider what happens when you enter “gun advocates are” into Google. The first autofill option is “gun advocates are idiots.” The second? “Gun control advocates are idiots.” When we disagree with others, we reliably assume that the opposition is more than just wrong. We assume they are stupid.
A recent series of experiments we have conducted, published in Psychological Science, suggests that the medium through which people interact with each other has an important effect on their impressions. In particular, we find that a person’s voice is subtly humanizing. People seem more mindful—more thoughtful, intelligent, rational, and humanlike—when we are able to hear their opinions, rather than read them.
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