The Grand Universal Illusion

(World Affairs) Michael J. Totten - Prof. Richard Landes explains what he calls cognitive egocentrism. "The act of empathy can often become an act of projecting onto another 'what I would feel if I were in their shoes,' rather than an attempt to understand how the person with whom one is empathizing has reacted to their situation, how they read and interpret events." People do this sort of thing all the time. We also do it to foreign people, and they do it to us. In early predictions about the Arab Spring, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was routinely described in the Western press as a party of mainstream religious conservatives who deeply believed in democracy and free markets, as if they were Egypt's version of the Republicans in the U.S. Likewise, the kids in Tahrir Square were seen as Egypt's Democrats. Both assumptions were outrageously wide of reality. There's not much we can do to prevent foreign people from projecting their psychology onto us, but we should at least resist doing the same thing to them.

2013-02-18 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive