Loving the Outgroup

Outgroup negativity is the flip side of ingroup favoritism, both well-studied psychological concepts. The theory goes that humans tend to divide ourselves based on certain traits, developing biases towards people similar to us and against different people. As a consequence, people have the capacity to be cruel and uncaring to those beyond their self-defined groups.

There is no shortage of modern examples displaying outgroup negativity. A politician may use rhetoric against an outgroup to increase their ingroup’s cohesiveness, a seemingly meaningless racial divide may be drawn during a time of crisis, and, even on a small scale, a school clique may show compassion to its members while radiating toxicity to outsiders.

If we want to encourage empathy and understanding, this is a bias we must deal with. Studies have shown that splitting the group can reduce this bias, with individuals much more likely to come to a mutual understanding than groups. Giving members of a group frequent contact with people they would consider the outgroup also weakens this bias, by humanizing rather than othering. Even something as simple as providing exposure to counter-stereotypical behavior from the outgroup lessens the prominence of the bias.

What strategies should we as a society focus on implementing in order to love the outgroup? What strategies do you you find work best personally? Are there caveats to this concept? Is there some balance to be maintained between stabilizing existing groups and breaking down boundaries?