Psychologist Daniel Goleman recently gave some clues about the perhaps surprising fact that it’s rather difficult to hate your neighbors because it’s so easy to see the ways in which they seem to be pretty much like you.
On the other hand, disdain or condescension or indifference or plain hatred aren’t too hard to conjure up when you thinking about or talking about people you never see face to face.
Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, says, for instance, “A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power.” A big part of the reason is that the powerful elite don’t see much of the bourgeoisie, or the hoi polloi, or the great unwashed, or the “little people.”
He says although “. . . research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power.” Out of sight, out of mind. Very wealthy folks don’t usually encounter the poor in a meaningful way, and so “rich people just care less” about less fortunate human beings.
The research of Thomas F. Pettigrew, research professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, finds that “even in areas where ethnic groups were in conflict and viewed one another through lenses of negative stereotypes, individuals who had close friends within the other group exhibited little or no such prejudice. They seemed to realize the many ways those demonized ‘others’ were ‘just like me.’ ”
This research reinforces earlier studies showing that living in mixed neighborhoods, with a range of ethnic, racial and socio-economic attributes, tends to minimize racist and discriminatory attitudes among the residents who share the space.
It’s not impossible to hate your neighbors, but people tend to mellow when they’re up close and personal….