Science Proves Empathy Could Change The Entire Debate About Refugees

President Barack Obama gave a strong message at the G20 economic summit Monday, condemning the anti-refugee responses of Republican governors and reaffirming that the United States would continue to welcome Syrian refugees into the country after ISIS attacks in Paris.

“When I heard political leaders suggest that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing a warn-torn country is admitted… that’s shameful,” Obama said. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

But if he was hoping to win the hearts and minds of Republican adversaries with his speech, he may have used exactly the wrong rhetoric.

According to new research published in this month’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Obama would have a better chance of building consensus if he appealed to conservative values (e.g., “Let’s not turn our backs on the American ideals of freedom and inclusivity”) rather than calling adversaries “shameful.”

This may seem obvious, but it remains nearly impossible to do.

“People can’t easily see past their own moral reason for taking a position,” Robb Willer, a professor of sociology at Stanford University and coauthor of the new study, told The Huffington Post.

Previous sociological research has found that conservatives and liberals have different moral profiles, Willer explained. Liberals tend to endorse values like equality, fairness and protecting vulnerable people from harm. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more likely to value patriotism, group loyalty, respect for authority and moral purity.

“Liberals tend to make arguments in terms of their own moral values, even when they know they’re talking to conservatives,” Willer said. “And conservatives do the same.”

These tendencies held true in Willer’s study, which asked participants to craft a convincing argument to change the mind of a —> Read More