In this awful political season we’re hearing a lot about racism, misogyny, homophobia or Islamophobia.  And although we are attuned to these attitudes from Right Wing groups, those of a liberal bent don’t tend to think much about who they are prejudiced against.  According to research reported in Broadly, it seems that the objects of our prejudices correlate with high versus low cognitive ability.  Which kind of sounds prejudicial in itself!

The researchers found that those at lower cognitive levels (as determined by a test that correlates with IQ) tend to be prejudiced against liberals and non-conventional ‘others,’ those who are discernibly different, such as African-Americans,   LGBTs,  Hispanics,  or Muslims.   Researchers call  these “low choice groups” because these are categories people can’t help falling into.   Remember the mighty efforts of the Right to paint Obama as a Muslim Kenyan?  It was an attempt to tag him as “other” without coming out and saying precisely what was meant, i.e., not like me, not white.  (That task falls to Donald Trump.)

Those with  higher cognitive abilities have strong prejudices as well, according to the study.  They dislike those who have a choice as to the groups they belong to – and who in their view have chosen wrongly, of course. So they don’t like conservatives (why can’t they listen to reason and change their minds?) and don’t think much of what they consider conventional folks generally.   Whatever that means.

In other words, everybody holds prejudices; just against different groups.

Studies also look at what I like to call “differentism.”   Living in a variety of countries with very different cultures, I can confidently say that people all over the world are suspicious of or downright hostile to people who are different from themselves.  It isn’t just race; it’s culture, religion, tribe, place of origin, accents – anything that sets you apart from the dominant group.

We’re uncomfortable with these differences.  An example:  in Ghana, villages had a barrier (yes, Trumpistas, almost like a wall.) with a bench in front of it for visitors from other villages.  When visitors arrived, they sat there until a local came along and asked them their business, who they  wanted to see, etc.  Thus vetted,  the stranger was allowed in.

 In cities we are constantly thrown in with “others.”  We can’t vet everyone we pass on the street. I’ve lived and traveled in over 60 countries, but I hear languages spoken in my neighborhood that throw me for a loop.  People learn to live with each other, interact with one another, and in the main think nothing of it.  Our “boundaries” are still there, but in our daily lives they have been thinned out, so to speak.

People in small towns and rural areas – or privileged enclaves – who don’t have that exposure are far more likely to be not just uncomfortable with, but even hostile to people who belong to ‘other’ groups.  Their boundaries are thicker, and they are more aware of ‘them versus us.’   Their attitudes and their politics often reflect this, as we are seeing.

That said, these findings, like most generalizations, aren’t hard and fast rules and don’t necessarily hold up at the individual level.   Thinking that they do is, well, prejudicial.


8 thoughts on “SO…WHO DO YOU LOVE TO HATE?

  1. My experience with small-town/rural isolation (and I grew up in such a place) is that exposure on an individual level to people with differences softens hardened ignorance (and I do see it as ignorance and lack of exposure and not low cognitive ability). Someone can say terrible things about someone “different],” but when face to face, eye to eye and engaged in a conversation with that “different” other,, civility almost always wins out. I’ve seen it. It doesn’t necessarily change prejudices, but in the moment, it offers a glimpse of softening. And I always wonder how that might be captured and done on a larger scale.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that’s absolutely right. Empathy comes with exposure and interaction. People who do not cotton to gays but come to know someone who is gay, for example, quickly amend their attitudes. Maybe the turnaround in public opinion re LGBTs can partly be attributed to so many ‘coming out’ — which leads to more people getting to know them which leads….

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “Civility”—– “offers a glimpse of softening”. I like that. Almost sounds too simple and yet, one at a time, it must happen. Not one of us is the same as the other and that’s as it should be or the boredom would be intolerable.

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  2. I haven’t travelled the world but I grew up in a small town that welcomed peoples from around the world. There was a church and two bars every five or so blocks. The churches were segregated by religion and even nationalities. The bars weren’t. There were large yards surrounded by short fences or hedges that were crossed by many on a daily basis. Dirt paths soon formed through the lawns by people taking a short cut or just coming by to talk. Many languages were spoken and some had many different dialogues. Customs and celebrations were different. Of course, in our immediate families we laughed about some of those differences. But, never criticized. Laughed. And soon we too became part of those customs and celebrations and I cherish some of them still. I never saw a black person until I was nine or ten when a big manufacturing plant in town brought in workers from Jamaica to replace those that had gone to fight a war. I never touched a black until my teens when I was a Red Cross Aide volunteer in a hospital and I washed down a black woman that had just given birth. She was of a different color, and yes a slightly different feel, but? I don’t know why some see differences but it doesn’t matter while to others it does. It is what we are. How we get to be what we are is the million dollar question. My home town or family didn’t do anything “different”. We just were………..and let be. Hate is man made by an individual not by their surroundings. Well, Bill, you accomplished something. Got me to do some deep thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enjoyed this. You make a good point: it isn’t the smallness of a place, it’s insularity and lack of contact with ‘others’ that supports prejudice. Once you come to know someone of a different color, faith, whatever, it becomes hard to ‘pre judge.’

      Liked by 1 person

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