“You’re not racist, are you?”

“Of course not.”

“Nor sexist?”


“Ageist? Sizeist? Nationalist?”

“No, nein, non!”

Well, if you’re a Republican, you probably are all of these things.

Also true if you’re a Democrat.

Want some research to back that up? Here you go (more detail here).

Study 1: People who spent time outside during winter overestimated the extent to which other people were bothered by cold

Study 2: People who ate salty snacks without water thought other people were overly bothered by thirst

But in both studies this effect evaporated when participants believed that the other people under consideration held opposing political views from their own.

In other words, Republicans don’t mind if Democrats freeze to death, and Democrats don’t care if Republicans die of thirst.

OK, that’s a slight over-statement but the point is that our sympathy, our ability to imagine and feel what others are feeling, wants to draw a line at the red/blue border.

As the researchers put it: “We overestimate the extent to which others feel what we’re feeling, unless they’re on another team.” We’re happy to walk in other people’s shoes, as long as they’re wearing the same colors.

And if this sympathy-limitation is true of politics, how much more of gender, age, race, etc. Dissimilarity and difference tends to turn our hearts off. As researchers concluded: “These consequences suggest a surprising limitation in people’s capacity to empathize with others with whom they disagree or differ from.”

So, should we all become Independents?

No, the answer is more and more of the Gospel of Christ worked deeper and deeper into our hearts.

Because who loved the disagreeable, the dissimilar, and the different more than He did?

  • http://www.yankeerev.wordpress.com Rod Phillips

    Sadly I think this happens to us in the arena of “Believer” and “Unbeliever”. Yes, Yes, we are to love them and reach out to them by declaring the Gospel, but “they” are still on the other side of the red/blue line and so our sympathy only goes so far.

    Um…there is a personal heart check going on right now…

    It is subtle, but I think it is a bigger struggle than we want to admit.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Good point, Rod. Applies there too.