Friday, April 27, 2012

We don't project our visceral states onto dissimilar others.

Interesting observations from O’Brien and Ellsworth on limits to the empathy of our embodied cognition:

What people feel shapes their perceptions of others. We have examined the assimilative influence of visceral states on social judgment. Replicating prior research, we found in a first experiment that participants who were outside during winter overestimated the extent to which other people were bothered by cold, and in a second study found that participants who ate salty snacks without water thought other people were overly bothered by thirst. However, in both studies, this effect evaporated when participants believed that the other people under consideration held political views opposing their own. Participants who judged these dissimilar others were unaffected by their own strong visceral-drive states, a finding that highlights the power of dissimilarity in social judgment. Dissimilarity may thus represent a boundary condition for embodied cognition and inhibit an empathic understanding of shared out-group pain. Our findings reveal the need for a better understanding of how people’s internal experiences influence their perceptions of the feelings and experiences of those who may hold values different from their own.

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