I found a new term, “Political Motive Attribution Asymmetry” that adds to, “Confirmation Bias,” “Selective Perception,” and “Motivated Reasoning” as the reason our political problems seem to be so intractable.  The term came from a Study called “Motive attribution asymmetry for love vs. hate drives intractable conflict.” Click here to see the Study.

It seems obvious to me that there are a lot of reasonable compromise solutions available to us.  Yet, we seem to always end up yelling at each other, rather than work to find solutions to our problems.  The Authors of the Study suggest that “Motive Attribution Asymmetry” means that:

“Adversaries attribute their ingroup’s actions to in-group love more than outgroup hate and attribute their outgroup’s actions to outgroup hate more than ingroup love. This biased attributional pattern increases beliefs and intentions associated with conflict intractability, including unwillingness to negotiate and unwillingness to vote for compromise solutions. … Understanding this bias and how to alleviate it can contribute to conflict resolution on a global scale.”

“Although people find it difficult to explain their adversaries’ actions in terms of love and affiliation, we suggest that recognizing this attributional bias and how to reduce it can contribute to reducing human conflict on a global scale.”

The current position of Senate Conservatives that they will not hold hearings on the US Supreme Court Nominee is a great example of how ideological and Political actors are willing to risk the health of their Country, because they are unwilling to make political compromises.  This is just one recent example.  There are unfortunately too many other world wide examples of political, economic, ethnic, and religious groups across the world rejecting solutions of mutual benefit that involve sharing power, land, or religious sites.

Why are so many conflicts so intractable when people on both sides could gain from a compromise?  I lay the blame for intractability at the foot of “Confirmation Bias,” “Selective Perception,” “Motivated Reasoning,” and now the new term, “Motive Attribution Asymmetry.”

This study supports the notion that:

“A fundamental barrier to conflict resolution may be simple pessimism toward compromise. If adversaries believe inflexibility on the other side renders mutual compromise impossible, they will be unlikely to adopt seemingly rational strategies for conciliation. In other words, the perception of conflict intractability may be an independent cause of a stalemate. Here, we identify a fundamental cognitive bias that contributes to the belief in conflict intractability, and may therefore contribute to conflict spirals.”

“People will attribute ingroup engagement in conflict to love more than hate, but they will attribute outgroup engagement in conflict to hate more than love. We term this pattern the “motive attribution asymmetry.” We use the term “bias” to mean response tendency (rather than error); in this case, a tendency to attribute love vs. hate to one’s in-group to a greater degree than to one’s outgroup and to attribute hate vs. love to one’s outgroup to a greater degree than to one’s in-group.”

Skip to toolbar