This study reveals the absolute worst about the group polarization we submit ourselves to.
In short, we appear to act in horrible ways to each other unless there are large social – and maybe even economic – consequence for it.
For example, few Americans would openly hate each other based on race – for there can be large consequences to this. Your family and friends might shame you, you might lose your job, etc.
But many openly hate their neighbors over political and religious ideology.
And they do this because this has become tolerable to do.
SinceAlexander wrote that initial post, an article has appeared based on research that confirms his hypothesis. “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization,” by Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood, indicates that Americans today do not simply feel animus toward those who disagree with them politically; they are increasingly prepared to act on it. Iyengar and Westwood’s research discovers a good deal of racial prejudice, which is to be expected and which is likely to grow worse in the coming years, but people seem to think that they shouldn’t be racists or at least shouldn’t show it. Not so, when the difference has to do with ideology: “Despite lingering negative attitudes toward African Americans, social norms appear to suppress racial discrimination, but there is no such reluctance to discriminate based on partisan affiliation.” That is, many Americans are happy to treat other people unfairly if those other people belong to the alien Tribe. And—this is perhaps the most telling and troubling finding of all—their desire to punish the outgroup is significantly stronger than their desire to support the ingroup. Through a series of games, Iyengar and Westwood discovered that “outgroup animosity is more consequential than favoritism for the ingroup.”
-Alan Jacobs, How To Think