Evil Intent

March 15, 2007


Psychologically we seem to have a predisposition to attribute evil intent to groups or people we disagree with.  An article in the Washington Post describes this phenomena with respect to opinions about the Iraq war.

What is interesting about the clash from a psychological perspective is not that supporters and critics disagree, but that large numbers of people on both sides claim to know the motives of people who disagree with them.

Unfortunately, the “they-have-bad-intent” mental software seems to be innate. Propaganda is something that we only apply to other people (outgroups). People or groups we identify with are inherently noble in thought, word, and deed.

This phenomena pops up in nearly any topic that is hotly debated. I watched The Great Global Warming Swindle the other night on Google Video and what struck me most was how much the “evil-intent” argument was used. Again, this is not one-sided as The Goracle and other global warming activists use the same technique.

So I have a new approach to try to trick my “they-have-bad-intent” mental module. Whenever I use the word “they” in any debate I will think of my Caution Steep Slope sign. Careful. Careful now.