Putting ourselves in the shoes of others does not serve to eliminate prejudices: it is much more effective to talk to them

Putting ourselves in the shoes of others does not serve to eliminate prejudices: it is much more effective to talk to them

Research suggests that trying to "put yourself in someone else’s shoes" simply by imagining what life is like for others does not suppress or weaken prejudices, nor does it change mindsets, but that one can actually increase resistance to the other. , amplifying the They / Us dichotomony .

As Adam Grant describes in his latest book Think Again , 25 experiments showed that imagining other people’s perspectives did not help to gain more precise insights from others and, at times, made participants feel more secure. of his own inaccurate judgments, of his prejudices.

In other words: we cannot imagine what we do not know . If we want to empathize or fellowship with others, we must understand them, and if we want to understand them, we have to talk to them.


Tribalism, trade and interaction

The greater the distance between us and an adversary, the more likely we are to oversimplify their real motives and invent explanations that are far removed from their reality . What works is not perspective taking, but perspective seeking – talking to people to understand the nuances of their points of view.

That’s what good scientists do: Instead of drawing conclusions about people based on minimal clues, they test their hypotheses by engaging in conversations , interacting, testing, evaluating.

The same was the opinion of the great Enlightenment thinker and student of John Locke , Anthony Ashley Cooper , who liked to point out that a truly liberal state allows free men to approach each other through conversation and commerce, leading to thus civil society. From this interaction arises coexistence and understanding, or at least tolerance towards the thoughts and even worldviews of others:

All courtesy is due to freedom. We buff each other, and we erase our rough corners and sides through a kind of friendly collision. To restrict this is inevitably to hurt the understanding of men. It is a destruction of civilization, good parenting, and even charity itself, under the guise of maintaining it.

Examples of this have taken place in urban centers where there has been a lot of international trade , such as cities with large seaports. A paradigmatic case is that of Amsterdam, a kind of Silicon Valley from 1600 that favored the forging of one of the most tolerant and open societies in the world, as you can see below: