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Thursday, June 15, 2017

How the Science of “Blue Lies” May Explain Trump’s Support

Jeremy Adam Smith
Scientific American
Originally posted on March 24, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

This has led many people to ask themselves: How does the former reality-TV star get away with it? How can he tell so many lies and still win support from many Americans?

Journalists and researchers have suggested many answers, from a hyperbiased, segmented media to simple ignorance on the part of GOP voters. But there is another explanation that no one seems to have entertained. It is that Trump is telling “blue lies”—a psychologist’s term for falsehoods, told on behalf of a group, that can actually strengthen bonds among the members of that group.

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This research—and these stories—highlights a difficult truth about our species: we are intensely social creatures, but we are prone to divide ourselves into competitive groups, largely for the purpose of allocating resources. People can be prosocial—compassionate, empathetic, generous, honest—in their group and aggressively antisocial toward out-groups. When we divide people into groups, we open the door to competition, dehumanization, violence—and socially sanctioned deceit.

“People condone lying against enemy nations, and since many people now see those on the other side of American politics as enemies, they may feel that lies, when they recognize them, are appropriate means of warfare,” says George Edwards, a political scientist at Texas A&M University and one of the country’s leading scholars of the presidency.

The article is here.

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