Does “putting yourself in the shoes of others” reduce attitude change?

From Rhia Catapano, Zakary L. Tormala, and Derek D. Rucker:

Counterattitudinal-argument generation is a powerful tool for opening people up to alternative views. On the basis of decades of research, it should be especially effective when people adopt the perspective of individuals who hold alternative views. In the current research, however, we found the opposite: In three preregistered experiments (total N = 2,734), we found that taking the perspective of someone who endorses a counterattitudinal view lowers receptiveness to that view and reduces attitude change following a counterattitudinal-argument-generation task. This ironic effect can be understood through value congruence: Individuals who take the opposition’s perspective generate arguments that are incongruent with their own values, which diminishes receptiveness and attitude change. Thus, trying to “put yourself in their shoes” can ultimately undermine self-persuasion. Consistent with a value-congruence account, this backfire effect is attenuated when people take the perspective of someone who holds the counterattitudinal view yet has similar overall values.

Yes, yes the replication crisis.  Still, this may be a useful countertonic against the notion that trying to understand other people always yields high returns.  Perhaps the better approach is simply to drain yourself of values when considering the perspectives of other people.


'Still, this may be a useful countertonic against the notion that trying to understand other people always yields high returns.'

What would be more useful is an experiment where someone actually experiences something, not merely think about it.

And then they could even write a book, though a book is unlikely to help when one sees what life is like in an industry - it isn't as of Sinclair's The Jungle led to any changes, right?

Perhaps a book titled 'Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (with Kids) in America' by Michelle Kennedy. Or maybe 'Nickel and Dimed : On (Not) Getting By in America' by Barbara Ehrenreich.

@clockwork - you're too clever by half, what are you trying to say, Mr. Indirection? You should move to Indonesia where Indirection is Indispensable. BTW Sinclair's book, a product of Progressive-ism, had a huge impact, almost as big as Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and led almost directly to the Nanny State. Sinclair himself became a Socialist politician.

PS--is Tyler trying to say (indirectly) lawyers are immoral? Or rather amoral, as they are trained to argue both sides of an argument, not unlike a chess master can reverse the board and beat an tyro in a seemingly hopeless position.

Lawyers? Now Ray is starting to see the image of lawyers in his mashed potatoes. Anyway, we have an adversarial system of justice, in which the two sides are represented by advocates, and a third party (jury, judge, arbitrator) decides where the truth lies. We have something like that in politics, where the two sides are represented by politicians who support their favored side, and a third party, voters, decide. The adversarial system of justice is far from perfect (juries can be swayed by emotion, which is why judges have the ability to overrule them), but the adversarial system of politics only works if voters have the ability to pay attention and distinguish between legitimate arguments on the issues and bullshit.

Is ability the same as willingness?

So eliciting an emotional response is unpredictable and often counterproductive. It very well may elicit the opposite of what you expect or desire.

Presumably the purpose is to get the one called upon to put on the other's shoes to grant something, give up something.

A more successful strategy is to elicit a selfish emotion. If you suspend judgement you will show yourself enlightened, will be esteemed by those you respect. Or you will be punished it you don't show the appropriate emotion.

By the way, cities don't work from people caring about one another. They work on self interest. People give up things to gain much more.

I would think it is generally understood that putting yourself in someone else's shoes means trying to feel their feelings, not trying to rehearse their arguments. Of course the latter won't do much except give you a chance to tease them.

The research found the opposite of what you think it did.

Trying to feel someone's feelings was found to be less effective than constructing opposing arguments.

you say " is generally understood that putting yourself in someone else's shoes means trying to feel their feelings..."

doesn't the phrase "putting yourself in someone elses shoes" mean
mentally/objectivily putting yourself in that someones position
in order to objectivily assess that situation not necessarily just to
feel their feelings

Fascinating way to phrase the concept, "drain yourself of values".
I'm not sure that this is a good thing but it is an intriguing notion to understand another person you should nullify your own values to zero.

I think most of all "drain ourselves of values" in the professional life. I just keep a core of values (honesty, technical rigor, civility) and forget the rest (traditions, beliefs, life expectations ). If not, I couldn't do team work with people so diverse.

I'd guess psychologists and psychiatrists may do a larger "draining". Imagine if they judged you instead of helping you.

It used to be common to explicitly teach young people not to discuss religion or politics in a business setting. That still seems good practice.

Draining oneself of values is what scientific research is all about. It isn't merely recommended but essential.

The problem with some people is that they rely solely on their emotional attachment to values. Facts are accepted only when they reinforce the adopted belief and rejected otherwise. See confirmation bias, mood affiliation.

Honesty is a value. It is nonsense to claim scientific research can be conducted without values. (like: integrity, honesty, accuracy, diligence, persistence, precision, respect, ...)

What they mean is that value shouldn't be applied to the *subject* of the research. I.e. Having a value that promiscuity is immoral so when doing research on sexual behavior , looking for bad things caused by promiscuity.

"Truth" itself is a value but not one that moves scientists or technologists consistently in directions the value of "truth" might anticipate . . .

--"we'll make gene-editing techniques POSSIBLE, but of course we would NEVER use them on human subjects".

--"the internal combustion engine will IMPROVE the quality of life for one and all".

--"cannabis has NO therapeutic applications whatsoever".

--"internet giants are DEDICATED to preserving YOUR privacy!".

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I suspect that Tyler's idea doesn't overcome the problem whereby people project bad motives/lack of values onto people who disagree with them. In other words, I don't think that'd help, either.

sounds like"drain the values" is mostly an awkward/inaccurate rebranding of the tried&true concept of objectivity

What makes it awkward or inaccurate?

"Drain yourself of values" is much more clear and instructive than "objective." I'll wager that most people understand the former better than the latter. I see the words objective and subjective misused with alarming frequency.

Values always come into play in individual and social choice, but one must eschew those values momentarily to consider all the facts. For example, one might value saving the life of the mother instead of an unborn child, however that value is irrelevant to the question of whether the situation necessitates making a choice between the child and mother. It is irrelevant to the question of whether the child is a living human being with rights. One might favor the death of someone else's child over one's own, but this does not imply the other child's life is worthless to you or of no value to anyone.

When facts are filtered through the lens of emotions and values, they are likely to be malinformative.

you say
"drain yourself of values" is much more clear and instructive than "objective.I see the words objective and subjective misused with alarming frequency. "

doesn't seem more clear at all.

if people subjectively misuse/don't understand a perfectly good word like objective that is easily fixed by calling
sweet fancy senora saint Susie Dent and her dictionary
does anybody have her phone number handy?

I think what he means is "don't apply value judgements" when thinking about other people's perspectives. In other words, don't think about what YOU would do according to your value system and then judge them for not doing that.

mebbe butt not sure what the added value is with
"drain yourself of values"
it sounds pretty much like the objective definition of objective
- not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
impartial · unbiased · unprejudiced · nonpartisan · disinterested ·
impartial · unbiased · unprejudiced · nonpartisan · disinterested ·

isn't empathy a value? are we now supposed to drain the empathy?
if you use objective you still got the empathy
if you drain yourself of values don't you have to drain the empathy?

Empathy is not sympathy. They are often confused. Do I have sympathy for those in West Virginia and Michigan and Wisconsin who won't move after the coal mines and industrial pants are closed but choose to stay and vote for politicians who make ridiculous promises to bring their jobs back while blaming black and brown skinned people for their plight. No, I don't have sympathy for them. But I do have empathy: how would I react if my home, where I grew up and where my friends and family are, were to become an economic wasteland through no fault of my own. And guess what: with global warming we are all at risk of finding ourselves in an economic wasteland. Globalization or global warming, for those affected the consequences are much the same. Put your self in their shoes: that's empathy.

>with global warming....

... the temperature in Minnesota is -19 right now. Can you imagine how low it would be WITHOUT all this global warming? Many would be dead.

Thank God no one is taking drastic and stupid actions to lower the global temperature! I say, save Minnesota, burn more coal. They would do the same for you.

I'm not familiar with the science here. Has it been established that there is a method which 'transposes' a person's mental & emotional perspective to that of someone else? citation needed. Doesn't this paper imply just the opposite? That whatever method(s) the researchers used, those methods failed (if they had any other than hand waving)?
Seems to me if our perspectives have taken years to 'solidify', then changing to something diametrically opposed can't be done in a moment on command. Wouldn't such a transposition require both data and time to integrate that? Given that our attention span is minutes, and this likely would take years, how plausible is this? imho: not.

if ur studies don't reproduce and your
violence/drug narratives isn't coherent
you blame it on empathy deficit
empathy is the 21st century phlogiston

Seems too hand wavy to me. I, as a person of certain persuasion, will try to imagine how it feels to be poor, imprisoned, disabled, etc. Do I have a realistic understanding of said person's circumstances? Probably not.

Maybe we could try an Undercover Boss approach? Where I must inhabit the reverse for a month, with no escape. How fun.

In other words, it works if I take the perspective of a Democrat, but not if I take the perspective of an Islamist militant.

Still I agree there's a lot to be said for not applying value judgements when considering other people's views. If someone's views are too difficult to model effectively, it could be more effective to just look at the incentives they are faced with and treat them as rational actors, for instance.

> it works if I take the perspective of a Democrat, but not if I take the perspective of an Islamist militant.

But Islamist militants vote Democrat, without exception. So how does this square with your thesis?

I don't know if that's true. if I was an Islamist militant (if I assume Islamists militants are rational actors), I would probably vote for the candidates most likely to damage America's interests and it's reputation.

Islamist militants....rational....

Kind of a contradiction.

>drain yourself of values

Ah, the central plank of the Dem platform. Thanks for the suggestion, Ty.

Keep abortion legal til the kid is 18, I say.

Since we've been invited here to exhibit values and valuations, it might be useful to have some understanding of where contemporary mania for "empathy" came from.

Seems to've emerged from the bowels of humane studies. I find my sufficient clue in "A Glossary of Literary Terms" (5th ed.) by M. H. Abrams. Page 49 open his account of distinguishing "empathy" and "sympathy", as emerging proto-moderns were being taught by 19th century German theorists to contemplate "Einfuhlung" (umlaut unavailable in this font, "feeling into" the translation).

Our 21st century contemporaries might be surprised to learn just how much SOMATIC identification was entailed by 19th century notions of "empathy". As Abrams puts it: "it signifies an identification with a perceived person or object, in which one seems to participate in the posture, motion, and sensations that one perceives . . . [i]n thoroughly absorbed contemplation we seem empathically to pirouette with a ballet dancer, soar with a hawk, bend with the movements of a tree in the wind . . .".

Leave it to 21st century researchers to pretend and to insist that "empathy" is almost purely cognitive, mental, and/or psychological: another study with which to pretend that humans can live their lives without clumsy somatic constitutions that might only confuse the data collectors and the data analysts.

"Always invert." -Carl Jacobi

I think I am missing something here. I would have predicted that imagining one's self in another's place would not necessarily change your opinion of their values and beliefs, particularly if they are in a worse situation than you are. Just the opposite, really.
In any individual event we might feel for someone's misfortune as being no fault of their own, but over a course of a life, a series of decisions, we are going to look at why those decisions were made and their effects. To the extent that the decisions are made based on values, and we believe that we would make different decisions due to our differing values, why wouldn't we say that their values led to their current situation?

I can see finding this outcome surprising if one assumes that all values are equal in terms of life outcomes, i.e. that all belief systems or cultures are equally good for people no matter the situation. Is that where the authors are coming from here?

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