Tag Archives: perspective taking

NYC development may help reduce post 9/11 discrimination

By Erica Zaiser

After 9/11, many people had a hard time separating the extremest actions of terrorists and Islam in their minds. Many worried that innocent Muslims in western countries would become targets of discrimination. In a study looking at religious and ethnic discrimination in the UK for seven ethnic groups, the two ethnic groups surveyed that are primarily Muslim (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) reported the greatest increase in discrimination after the 9/11 attacks. The researchers argue that major world events like 9/11 can increase discrimination not just in the country in which they occur but also in other countries. Another study revisited Milgram’s famous lost-letter experiments in order to look at prejudice behaviour against Muslims. Their study, conducted in Sweden, found that when people found a lost, unsent letter addressed to a “Muslim sounding” name they were less likely to post the letter than if the name was Swedish sounding. However, they say that this was only the case when the letter contained money (so when the finder would benefit by not passing the letter on). The authors argue that this could provide evidence of discrmination against Muslims, although it also could simply be a confirmation of previous research showing that people are prejudiced against foreign sounding names in general.

Recent news that ground zero in New York City is the future site of a community center intending to include a mosque has become somewhat controversial. Some herald the decision as a step towards developing closer ties with the Muslim community, while others say that they feel a mosque would act as a reminder of the extremist views behind the 9/11 attacks. Much research in social psychology has shown that intergroup contact can reduce prejudice. According to a meta-analysis of contact research, this is because contact can increase knowledge about the outgroup, reduce anxiety about contact, and increase empathy and perspective taking towards the outgroup. So, the project could help to increase contact between Muslims and non-Muslims and hopefully lead to a decrease negative stereotypes and attitudes towards Muslims.

Read More:

Muslim Discrimination: Evidence from two lost letter experiments

Major World Events and Discrimination

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“I can resist everything except temptation” – Oscar Wilde

By Erica Zaiser

Lent began yesterday and for many Christians this means giving up something for 40 days, in part to practice self-discipline. While forgoing meat, chocolate, smoking, or whatever else one chooses, when temptation hits, it might be useful to review some of the findings in social psychology on self-control. According to one theory, self-control is construal dependent. So, when trying to refrain from something, depending on how you see the tempting situation you may come to a different conclusion.

It seems that we have better self-control when something is psychologically distant (for example through time or space). There are many ways to be psychologically distant from a situation. In one study, psychologists found that when people pictured themselves voting from a third person perspective they were more likely to actually go and vote versus people who pictured voting from a first person perspective. So, maybe when you go for that chocolate you vowed to give up you will do a better job refraining if you picture yourself eating it from a third person perspective. Other ways to distance yourself psychologically would be to view your action in the context of time– tell yourself yes you can drink a glass of wine now, but in the long run you won’t be happy with yourself for breaking Lent. Or perhaps the easiest way to distance yourself from your temptation is to literally distance yourself from it. Move the cake into a different room or don’t keep cake in your house in the first place because (no surprises here) physical distance has been shown to make self-control easier as well.

Although, my guess is that if psychological distance can improve self-control, people who are practicing Lent may already have an advantage over people who just choose to forgo something outside the religious context. Lent itself provides a superordinate goal of discipline and willpower in order to become more spiritually fulfilled. Remembering this bigger picture when tempted may provide the psychological distance needed to refrain.

Read more about self-control:  Fujita, Kentaro (2008).  Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees: A Construal-Level Approach to Self-Control. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2, 1475-1496.

Read more:  Libby et al. (2007). Picture Yourself at the Polls: Visual Perspective in Mental Imagery Affects Self-Perception and Behavior. Psychological Science. 18, 199-203.

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