Psychology: The other side is never right

Psychology: The other side is never right

Even through harmless aphorisms, people can split themselves. Psychologists have tried to fathom the causes of this extreme polarization.
 A statement provokes rejection according to the researchers, if they say the wrong thing, according to the formula: If the wrong person says something right, then what is said is automatically worthless.
 The study could help spur political debates.



    Fighters of all camps pour out contempt on social media and thunder heavy clubs on the digital skulls. After all, so far existed neutral zones, in which the spitters were able to lick their wounds in the battle breaks: breathe, look at cat pictures and then read a few Kalprüprüchlein that make it mysteriously into every timeline: "A gentle response dampens the excitement, an offensive speech irritates to anger. " Yes, yes, if you nod nonchalantly, that's it. And: "Multitude does not bring mind." It is easy to turn one's eyes over people who bother others with aphorisms like these. But in content you can hardly contradict such quotes. Or is it?


    In the excited and polarized present, people even split into callouts, which they actually agree with in content. A statement may be ideologically harmless – if it comes from the wrong mouth, it can provoke rejection. This is reported by psychologists led by Paul Hanel of the British University of Bath in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The other side is never right, the reflex, especially when it comes to highly emotional issues such as migration, the gender debate, the Trump Theater, Brexit or populism. "But even trivial statements can polarize," says Hanel. For example: "Without passion you have no energy, without energy you have nothing." An innocuous saying? He is from Donald Trump.


    Do people rate harmless statements differently when they come from members of their own or those of a strange group? To answer this question, psychologists, for example, presented atheists and devout Christians with aphorisms derived from the Bible or Greek philosophers. Under the same principle, US Democrats and US Republicans should rate conciliatory sayings from politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. Sometimes the researchers called the more than 2,000 participants the correct source of a spell, sometimes one wrong, none at all.


    A white man who condemns racism? Buh, unheard, such a person has nothing to report!


    Atheists accepted spells to a lesser extent when it was said that they came from the Bible. That was true even if that was not true and a Greek philosopher was the author. The same picture emerged among US citizens, who assessed statements by high-ranking Democrats and Republicans. They were particularly in agreement when the statements came from a representative of their party. "So it's all about how the quotes are labeled," says Hanel, "and not what they say."


    Glowing advocates or opponents of a thing are particularly sensitive when the competition expresses itself. Greek philosophers, on the other hand, provoke less rejection among Christians than biblical passages among atheists. And as was revealed in another experiment: The British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn is a stronger attraction than the wooden Theresa May. Platitudes from the mouth of the Prime Minister provoked little opposition to political opponents.


    No matter how long the subjects could think about the submitted Proverbs. No matter how much time they devoted to letting an aphorism seep into their minds, the source decided on refusal or approval. Also, the level of education did not matter: no matter how good the university degree was, the effect had no effect.


    "Most of the most striking passages in political speeches are made up of commonplaces and morally charged claims, not real arguments," the researchers write. The person behind the microphone influences whether the audience nods, perhaps even stronger than the content of the speech. This also applies to slogans on election posters, which are often only common places without appellations of origin: "Thinking new", "Sure for our country", "The next step for our country" – lacks the party logo, say these slogans nothing. By labeling, on the other hand, they arouse emotions, both good and bad.